By Gatonye Gathura
The Ameru people of Kenya are baffled by a most rare and spectacular migration of butterflies last reported in Ethiopia about half a century ago.
“A much as we know, this is the first ever recorded case of migration of this brownish species in Kenya,” says Joseph Mugambi of the Invertebrate Zoology Department, National Museums of Kenya.
Last week a team from his department visited Chuka in Meru to record the phenomena. “There exists no record of this happening in Kenya. This may therefore be the very first record of it in the country.”
The migration of the species called Sallya boisduvali has been happening between Meru and Runyenjes in numbers that have mystified local residents.
The general direction of migration is reported as being from West to East and normally in the hottest time of the day.
A report by Mugambi and his colleagues M P Clifton and L Njoroge shows sometimes the butterflies are so many that they make visibility low for drivers.
While this may be intriguing for researchers it is not so for farmers with the insects leaving a wave of destruction behind.
The butterfly is specifically attracted to a common tree in the area, of the Sapium sp. on which they are breeding along the migratory path.The affected trees appear dry something that has annoyed many farmers.