Butterflies are migrating around you going through Nairobi

Caper white

The air is dotted with hundreds of tiny bright white and black forms drifting purposefully across the landscape. In the city, one might be forgiven for thinking that someone is carelessly tossing shredded paper into the wind. But for once, litterbugs are not to blame for what’s blowing around Nairobi. These are not pieces of paper drifting aimlessly about, but hundreds of living butterflies on the move.

Clouds of white butterflies are currently making their way cross-country all over East Africa, drifting and swirling by in their hundreds. The butterflies can be seen on most sunny days around Nairobi, on the grasslands and riverine areas of the Nairobi National Park and at open green spaces within the city, such as the Arboretum and City Park.

These butterflies are broadly known as the Caper Whites. They are in the genus Belenois, and are a common feature of open woodland and grassland areas across the region. They fly restlessly, pausing often to sip nectar from flowers of every kind. They also gather at damp spots – even by roadsides with busy traffic. The males gather to mud-puddle at damp spots where they can form large congregations depending on the kinds of salts available and prevailing weather. One of the commonest species is the Brown-Veined White, Belenois aurota, where the veins on the underside of the white wings are outlined in brown-black.

The Caper White caterpillars feed on Maerua, Capparis and other members of the Capparaceae.  The exact reasons behind these mini-migrations that occur periodically depending on the seasons are not fully understood. They could just be driven by instinct to disperse, but it is more likely that there are peaks in population growth that depletes caterpillar food-plants and forces the butterflies to move in search of new areas to lay eggs.

Keep an eye out for these incredible butterflies on their chaotic journey cross-country. Let us know if you have seen them!

By Dino Martins

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7 Responses to “Butterflies are migrating around you going through Nairobi”

  1. John Marshall12/02/2020 at 9:35 am #

    Masses on the coast

  2. Shirley11/02/2020 at 2:31 pm #

    We have hundreds drifting through our garden on mtwapa creek, mombasa

  3. George van Wyk10/02/2020 at 2:55 pm #

    Huge numbers of them appeared today (10th February 2020) in Diani on the Southern Kenya coast. They weren’t around yesterday, it’s as if today has seen a population explosion of them! The air is thick with amazing numbers, flying seemingly aimlessly around – even very high altitude. This morning they were over the beach and inland, this afternoon they are also flying out over the sea.

  4. Mike Atkelsky10/02/2020 at 9:48 am #

    February on the coast the migration here south of Mombasa, all travelling South North in their thousands

  5. Theresa09/02/2020 at 5:02 pm #

    I too noticed the butterflies and wondered what could be the reason they are in the hundred! Thanks for the insight.

  6. Elias Mbui07/02/2020 at 1:52 pm #

    Yes, lots of them are flying across Embu since last Tuesday, they are beautiful white creatures.

  7. Sweta22/01/2018 at 3:53 pm #

    Yes I have seen these butterflies and that’s why looked up on the net. Thanks for this write up. Sweta in Nairobi

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