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View Full Version : Who's been in the middle of a butterfly swarm?



Tazlima
07-16-2015, 10:19 PM
...I'm talking butterflies filling the air like during a monarch migration. I have a question:

Do they make a sound? All those flapping wings probably brushing against each other, it seems like they should make a little bit of noise. If so, what does a mass quantity of butterflies in flight sound like?

RKarina
07-16-2015, 10:47 PM
I used to live in San Diego and during the migrations yes, you could hear a subtle sound, but...

It was subtle, like leaves rustling in the trees. And you could easily miss it - if the radio was on, if you were driving down the road in a car, if you were inside a house with windows shut (why on earth you would be like that in San Diego is another story!), it wouldn't be a noise that would make you stop and take notice, and in fact, even if you tried to hear it in some of those cases, you might not be able to.

Outside, on a still day, with no traffic around? Sure. You're going to hear it, but honestly, it's pretty quiet.

King Neptune
07-16-2015, 10:48 PM
You got me wondering. I've been inside small swarms of butterflies, and I don't remember any sound, so I searched. It seems that butterflies make very little sound. I kind of remember that swarms seemed to muffle other sounds, but there might be a noticeable sound in one of the huge swarms.

butterfly wings
https://freesound.org/people/Yuval/sounds/198818/

RKarina
07-16-2015, 10:55 PM
You got me wondering. I've been inside small swarms of butterflies, and I don't remember any sound, so I searched. It seems that butterflies make very little sound. I kind of remember that swarms seemed to muffle other sounds, but there might be a noticeable sound in one of the huge swarms.

butterfly wings
https://freesound.org/people/Yuval/sounds/198818/

We used to live in a rural area, right along a migratory path. It's kind of amazing to watch, and yes, there was a slight muffling sensation. And a very, very subtle soft rustling sound. Not like dry leaves, but soft leaves.

Butterflies don't make sounds in general (some make a clicking noise apparently). I don't think the sound is the butterflies themselves producing noise, it's just the sound of so many wings in the air.

You really would have to be outside, in the middle of it, with nothing else going on to hear it.

You won't hear it coming from a distance. It won't startle you, or make you run outside wondering what's going on.

Dave Williams
07-17-2015, 01:31 AM
I don't remember any particular sound, but the butterflies will GRAB and hold on to you for dear life when you swat at them. You can't shake or pick them off without damaging them.

It wasn't really painful, but I thought I was being bitten at the time. I was more startled than anything else.

shakeysix
07-17-2015, 02:25 AM
Monarchs on their migration to Mexico swept through Great Bend one autumn. My husband and i were on the way to visit my aunt, who came from Houston to visit my dad. On the highway from Dodge City we spotted a patch of orange on the highway. We stopped (thank God this was a Kansas Highway--no traffic to speak of.) and sure enough it was a patch of Monarch butterflies parked right in the middle of the highway. My husband and I tried to shoo them but the Monarchs would not budge. We finally drove through them and then mowed through bigger and bigger patches of them the rest of the way--about forty miles. In Great Bend they were all over the town but there was an unusually big swarm in my dad's yard. They would swarm up and swirl around from time to time but mainly they stayed in one place. They completely covered the sidewalk and Dad's porch. I remember my old aunt trying to sweep them off the walk and porch with a broom. Very gently of course. We still had to walk on some and we hated it. There are pictures somewhere that we took. They were in the trees, in the bushes, filling the birdbaths. I don't really remember a sound but they were clingy. The birds were noisy but I don't remember them swooping down and eating many. They were here for about two days and then they picked up and left. Not in one big wave but in waves. The last wave to come through was barely noticeable--s6

WeaselFire
07-17-2015, 03:02 AM
Used to be in several a year, monarchs. Never heard anything. Being able to see a single butterfly is very difficult. They do have a slightly sweet odor, but not like perfume or anything that strong. More like a field of clover. Lots of fun to sit in a patch of them and wait for the dew to dry and then they start moving and take off all at one time. Better than anything Spielberg could do. :)

Jeff

Tazlima
07-17-2015, 06:29 PM
Thank you all so much, this was absolutely perfect for my story.

Introversion
07-17-2015, 06:45 PM
Monarchs on their migration to Mexico swept through Great Bend one autumn. My husband and i were on the way to visit my aunt, who came from Houston to visit my dad. On the highway from Dodge City we spotted a patch of orange on the highway. We stopped (thank God this was a Kansas Highway--no traffic to speak of.) and sure enough it was a patch of Monarch butterflies parked right in the middle of the highway. My husband and I tried to shoo them but the Monarchs would not budge. We finally drove through them and then mowed through bigger and bigger patches of them the rest of the way--about forty miles. In Great Bend they were all over the town but there was an unusually big swarm in my dad's yard. They would swarm up and swirl around from time to time but mainly they stayed in one place. They completely covered the sidewalk and Dad's porch. I remember my old aunt trying to sweep them off the walk and porch with a broom. Very gently of course. We still had to walk on some and we hated it. There are pictures somewhere that we took. They were in the trees, in the bushes, filling the birdbaths. I don't really remember a sound but they were clingy. The birds were noisy but I don't remember them swooping down and eating many. They were here for about two days and then they picked up and left. Not in one big wave but in waves. The last wave to come through was barely noticeable--s6

Neat!

Monarchs are reputed to taste terrible, due to chemicals in milkweed that they feed upon as caterpillars, so I don't imagine birds would attempt to eat many.

shakeysix
07-17-2015, 06:51 PM
I went with our high school biology kids one Saturday on a field trip to Quivira, a saltmarsh, a local wildlife refuge. The migrating Monarchs were thick in the tall grass and cedar trees, very pretty. The teacher offered extra credit for students who volunteered to tag the Monarchs, so these kids were the ones with the worst grades mixed in with a couple of biology nerds and me. I love Quivira and butterflies.

The kids were great, very gentle with the butterflies, even the two I suspected of taking a smoke break in the photography blind. The males were tagged with a green sticky dot on the wing. How do you know if it is a male? The males have two black dots on their wings--some kind of sex gland that releases a scent to get the females "all horny" as the teacher explained it. (So glad I teach Spanish, not sex stuff.) The kids had a lot of fun joking about butterfly balls. --s6

pkbax
07-20-2015, 10:12 PM
My folks used to have house on a lake right along the migration route. It is an awesome sight, but like others I don't recall much sound. And time of day makes a difference, too. During daylight hours they tended to fly around a lot more and were more likely to fly off if disturbed while on the ground. It was usually around dusk they settled and stay settled until the next morning.


Neat!

Monarchs are reputed to taste terrible, due to chemicals in milkweed that they feed upon as caterpillars, so I don't imagine birds would attempt to eat many.

Not just taste terrible but actually toxic. That is exactly why at least one other species mimics the pattern of the monarch.