MADRID: Millions of moths have engulfed Madrid in a population explosion blamed on spring rains, a sudden blast of summer heat and winds that have wafted them in as unwelcome guests to the Spanish capital.
Across the city, people are swapping tales of night-time battles to swat moths lured by the light into their bedrooms, a whole new genre of jokes has been born and the phenomenon has become a trending Twitter topic.
No one is sure of precisely where they came from.
Roger Vila, researcher at the butterfly diversity and evolution laboratory in the northeastern city of Barcelona, identified three types of moth from photographic evidence: the Gamma, Noctua and Catocala.
Many of them flew to the capital from southern Spain but others may have migrated from northern Africa on a long journey across the Gibraltar Strait to destinations across Europe, he told Agence France-Presse on Monday.
“What happened is that there were very special climactic conditions,” Vila explained.
After a cool, rainy spring ideal for the vegetation that caterpillars feed on, the weather turned hot recently, leading the moths to emerge en masse from their chrysalis at about the same time, the scientist said.
The flying insects, which carry no health risk and are not the clothes-eating variety, probably ended up in Madrid because of prevailing winds, Vila said.
“They live for about a week so they will certainly die within a few days,” he added. “The only question is whether more arrive at some point.”