The sudden appearance of the butterflies coincided with a warm blast of air from North Africa but the two events are in fact unconnected. The painted ladies (Vanessa cardui) have actually come from all over Europe and are migrating south to Africa to pass the winter in warmer climates.
Experts have no idea why this year's butterfly migration is so spectacular although October is known in the Canary Islands as butterfly month due to regular migrations. Local lepidopterist Juan Mariposa stated that the mass flight of butterflies is a mystery of nature and has nothing to do with Thomas Cook or Brexit.
The painted lady butterflies are expected to remain in Gran Canaria for a few days to feed on flower nectar before continuing their migration south. They, or their descendants, will be back in early spring as they head north to Europe.