Learn More About a Butterfly Swarm

Swarming is the act of one or more species of butterflies flying and gathering within a single area for a common purpose. Some reasons for swarming include sharing resources for nourishment, reproduction, and protection, especially during migration.

What is the difference between a swarm and a group of butterflies?

A group of puddling butterflies
A group of puddling butterflies

Swarming is a gathering of butterflies of the same species, while a group of butterflies can contain multiple species. Many terms refer to a group of butterflies, such as:

  • Wing
  • Flight
  • Roost
  • Kaleidoscope
  • Army

Why do butterflies swarm and form groups?

There are various reasons that butterflies swarm, mostly centered around the survival of the species through sharing of resources. Here are more specific reasons:

  • Group protection
  • Puddling
  • Safer feeding

Butterflies swarm to protect the group while they migrate. Migration often means higher risks of being attacked by predators. However, migration in large groups ensures higher chances of survival because the predators can’t attack all of the butterflies at once. Plus, migrational swarms are often triggered by seasonal or climate change.

Another reason for swarming includes puddling. Puddling is usually reserved for males. They’ll congregate near the mud puddles to obtain sodium and other minerals for mating. Sometimes there are more than one species of butterflies around, and they group to take advantage of the puddle.

Free Butterfly Garden Mastery Course

Sign up for our five-email course that will teach you how to identify, observe and attract butterflies to your garden.

Finally, butterflies come together for a safer feeding process. Predators sometimes attempt to invade the food plants, and by gathering in one spot, the butterflies can acquire strength in numbers.

Caterpillars can also feed in a communal web, which increases their chance of survival. A group of caterpillars is often called a rolling swarm.

Some of the most common examples of swarming are:

Lyside sulphur butterfly (Kricogonia lyside)these butterflies fly in large groups across south Texas to protect the group during migration.
Cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae)can be seen in great numbers when three to four generations are born and eventually congregate within one summer season.
Pandora pinemoth butterfly (Coloradia pandora)this breed is common in North America and goes through cycles of rapid reproduction lasting up to 10 years. Sometimes, their swarms can cover the sides of buildings.
Red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta)this species tends to gather in preparation for migration.
American snout butterfly (Libytheana carinenta)like the Red admirals, they swarm to prepare for migration, especially during the dry seasons.
Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus)Monarch butterfly migration is one of the prettiest sights of butterfly swarms. These swarms contain millions of Monarchs that migrate 3,000 miles from their breeding place.

What is the most common type of butterfly swarm?

The most common swarm is one made of Cabbage whites. Other common species that tend to swarm include:

  • Orange sulfur butterflies (Colias eurytheme)
  • Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus)​
  • Viceroy butterflies (Limenitis archippus)
  • Eastern tiger swallowtail butterflies (Papilio glaucus)
  • Painted lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui)

Regarding swarming reasons, migration swarms are the most common type.

What are the shapes of a butterfly swarm?

Butterflies tend to form similar formations when they gather to swarm for their specific purposes. The usual shapes are fractals, parallel, and scattered swarms.

Fractal is one of the most common shapes. When observed from above or below, fractals are U or V-shaped. This shape often happens during migration.

Parallel formation requires the butterflies to align, usually in multiple rows. According to a study on butterfly flight patterns, the parallel formation could be conditioned by unsuitable habitats and dense trees.

Finally, scattered formation takes place when the butterflies approach the host plants. The best example of scattered formation is the Monarch butterfly swarm when they come to milkweed.

Butterfly swarm
Butterfly swarm

What is the best way to control a butterfly swarm?

There’s no need to control a butterfly swarm. If you ever come across one, know they are swarming to increase survival or migrate. The swarming butterflies are harmless and will leave when the right moment comes.

What does it mean when you see a bunch of butterflies?

Some people may believe that seeing a swarm of butterflies has different symbolic meanings. They might believe a significant change will come in their life soon or that butterflies symbolize encouragement to make the most out of what they have at the moment. Additionally, butterfly swarms may represent freedom from whatever holds you down.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

Leave a Comment