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Large butterfly migration brings concern to soybean farmers

NEAR ELGIN, Minn. (FOX 47) – Vivid colors of orange, black and white. Butterflies often evoke joy – but we’re not talking about Monarchs.

The Painted Lady Butterfly has been making a big appearance the past week and Southern Minnesota is seeing a lot more of them than usual. Experts say that this years migration is about three times the size of last years.

“They just appeared,” Hidden Stream Farm Lisa Klein said. “You know you don’t really see them come in, they’re just all of a sudden there.”

Painted Lady Butterfly.While the insects can be pretty to look at, they can be possibly damaging to some farmers. The migration increase is causing concern for soybean farmers. Experts say the butterflies feed off of thistle and certain types of sunflowers, large amounts of their larvae can cause problems for crop production, as they can feed on soybean plants.

The Painted Lady Larvae have damaged crops in a few South Central and South Eastern Minnesota fields, but thankfully not enough to cause widespread economic harm.

“Painted Lady Butterflies are native, harmless and will soon migrate out of Minnesota,” University of Minnesota Damaged soybean crop.Extension Integrated Pest Management Specialist Bruce Potter said. “Large numbers of larvae can cause occasional problems in crop production but those problems are not all that common.”

Potter adds that the Painted Ladies are expected to migrate out of Minnesota sometime in September.

“They sit on a flower and go to other flowers and pollinate,” Klein said. “So I don’t think that they are detrimental, they’re pretty, enjoyable, I love the butterflies.”

Although quite rare, Potter says if soybean crop damages reach to about 20 percent, farmers are advised to use insecticide.

Beret Leone

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