PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

July 3, 2013

Ivory-winged butterflies flutter over Island

Julie Garcia
The Port Arthur News

PLEASURE ISLAND — Pleasure Island has been invaded.

Not by little green men, but delicate white butterflies which have been fluttering from the bridge to far past the marina for weeks now,  according to island regulars.

A swarm is too harsh of a word to refer to the grouping of butterflies that starts on the other side of the bridge. A flock even sounds too plain to describe the unimaginable number of alabaster-winged critters chasing each other around the park, congregating on one bush or the next.

The sight of dancing ivory butterflies offers a distraction, possibly even a reprieve from the dog days of summer and causes one to do more than pause, but wonder.

Why have they landed on Pleasure Island?

According to legend, a white butterfly symbolizes peace and a change that occurs rapidly. According to the website Ask.com, a single white butterfly can also be used to symbolize rebirth, evolution, commemoration, lightness, time and soul, as well as transformation via metamorphosis.

Terry Stelly with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Coastal Fisheries said that the impromptu infiltration probably has to do with  availability of food and Southeast Texas’ steamy temperatures.

Stelly said he has noticed the invasion of white butterflies for the last three or four years. This time around, they have been calling Pleasure Island home for the past month, he said.

“That tree looked like it could have been covered in snowflakes last week with how many butterflies were on it,” Stelly said, pointing to a tree near a dock.

After he noticed that the butterflies seemed to be dispersing at the end of last week, Stelly was surprised by another “eruption” Monday.

“I keep thinking it’s over and then I came back on Monday and there were thousands of them again,” Stelly said. “It must be a cycle, like mosquitos or lovebugs — you just feel bad driving through them.”

Michael Manuel, owner of Sharky’s Grill, Bait and Tackle, wants to know why they have landed and how long they’re going to stay.

“I called a meteorologist at Channel 6 to see if he knew why would they be here,” Manuel said around noon on Thursday. The business owner said he was prepping his grill for Independence Day traffic.

“Earlier in the day, they are thicker (the butterflies) and it seems like they come from nowhere,” Manuel said. “There are times when you look in the sky and all you can see are butterflies.”

Manuel has owned Sharky’s since 2004 and has remained open since, with the exception of a few months following Hurricane Ike. He said he has never seen the butterflies like this before in Southeast Texas.

“I thought maybe it had to do with weather — different species migrate with the weather,” he said. “There aren’t many flowering bushes on the Island — not a lot of wild flowers either, just a bunch of callow trees.”

While grilling up burgers and making snow cones for his customers, Manuel is constantly asked about the butterflies.

“I have a lot of people ask me about them — everyone’s really interested,” he said.

Email: jgarcia@panews.com

Twitter: @julesbmt