Mass Butterfly Die-Off
In Hainan, China

From Patricia Doyle, PhD
On the East Line Highway going toward Qionghai? I am assuming that this is the same area hard hit by H5N1.
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From Dan Silver Souce: Hainan SEZ News and Xinhua (Translated by submitter Dan Silver; edited)
Thousands of butterflies die on the East Line Highway in Hainan Tens of thousands of beautiful butterflies have died and been scattered along the East Line Highway. This was personally seen by the reporters Liu Wei and Li Zhi yesterday morning [29 Jun 2005]. The cause of death of the butterflies has yet to be authoritatively explained.
On 29 Jun 2005 at 11:00 a.m., the reporters drove along the East Line Highway towards Qionghai. From kilometer 8, the colorful dead butterflies were scattered along the road and began to attract attention. At first, the reporters believed that the butterflies had hit car windshields and died. But further down the road, there were more dead butterflies. By kilometer 12 the dead butterflies could already be described as numerous. At kilometer 12, the reporters got out of the car for a closer inspection. Every one or 2 meters along the shoulder of the road there were one or 2 dead butterflies. In some places they were relatively more concentrated, and some off-road sites had about 10 butterflies, most of which were dead, while a few were fluttering weakly and then died. The butterflies were of various sizes, some beautifully colored. The reporters discovered several dead butterflies in the grass past the guard rail. With each passing car, dead butterflies were carried by the wind and then dropped back down. As the reporters continued along the road there were numerous dead butterflies which did not thin out until kilometer 23. After kilometer 24 they were essentially not seen.
The reporters asked 2 patrolling highway management personnel the cause of the butterfly deaths. They said they had never before encountered this kind of situation and that it might have been caused by excessive heat.
Hainan is well known for its butterflies, and has been called the Butterfly Kingdom. There are 609 species of butterflies on the island, which represents about half the butterfly species of China. The Jianfengling rainforest has one of the world's biggest concentrations of butterflies and is sometimes known as the Butterfly Valley.
I have no idea what caused the death of these butterflies, what species they were, or whether the dead butterflies comprised more than one species. However, butterflies often migrate in large numbers and when they cross busy highways many are killed, as I have seen in northern Nigeria. It is well known that extreme weather conditions can cause mortality of adult butterflies, as has been recorded in the Monarch butterfly (_Danaus plexippus_). Butterflies do become infected with various pathogens, but death occurs in the larval stages. Possibly more information will be forthcoming on the species of butterflies dying in Hainan and the causes of such mortality. - Mod.MS
Patricia A. Doyle, PhD
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