The 31st annual North American Butterfly Count will be held this
summer. These counts are fun-filled, but also track the butterfly
populations of North America much like the Audubon Christmas Bird
Like that count, volunteers select an area with a 15 mile radius
and attempt a one day census of all butterflies sighted within that
circle. The 2nd annual Lost Mound Butterfly Count will be held from
10 am to noon on Friday July 8 with participants of all ages meeting
at Lost Mound headquarters.
Nets and field guides will be provided. The Count only records butterflies
and their caterpillars and chrysalises. It does not include moths.
Butterflies are usually colorful and are active during the day. Moths
are more drab and for the most part, nighttime fliers. Antennae are
thin and club-shaped at the tip while the moth’s are usually
feathery and can be quite wide. Moths hold their wings horizontally
when not flying, butterflies’ are held vertically over their
bodies while at rest.
There are about 575 species of butterflies in the lower 48 states
and approximately a hundred in the tri-state area. Many butterflies
spend the summer in temperate North America but can not survive the
winter here. Species that migrate northward each summer include Cloudless
Sulphur (Phoebis sennae eubule), Painted Lady (Vanessa virginiensis),
and Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta). In the fall, Question Marks(Polygonia
interrogationis), Mourning Cloaks (Nymphalis antiopa) and Monarchs
(Danaus plexippus) head south.
The North American Butterfly Association (NABA) organizes the counts
and publishes an annual report. These reports provide important information
about the geographical distributions and population sizes of the species
counted. Comparisons of the results over the years monitor changes
in butterfly numbers and reveal effects of weather and habitat change
on the different species.
In some years, the butterfly count shows dramatic changes while
other years indicate little fluctuation in populations. Either way,
the counters are always curious about what next year’s results
will be! No matter how little butterfly watching you have done, the
results of counting them can be surprising, interesting and fun.
Butterflies and moths are of the order Lepidoptera with 75 families
of moths and just 5 of butterflies. An amazing 1000 species of both
are found in North America.
Stages of development are: egg, larvae (caterpillar), pupa (cocoon
or chrysalis) and adult. A moth cocoon is a tough “skinned”
shell made with sturdy spun silk and hairs. Butterflies do not make
this wonderfully protective house, instead they form a chrysalis which
is a little more vulnerable, but also contains silk. Chrysalises can
be different shapes, oval-smooth or angular, depending on the species.
Mouthparts of adults are sucking tubes which are rolled into tight
coils when not in use.
Caterpillars have a voracious appetite. Black Swallowtail caterpillars
love parsley. Larvae of the Tiger Swallowtail eat wild cherry. We’re
all familiar with the White Cabbage Butterfly whose lime green worms
feed on broccoli, cabbage, etc and are the bane of vegetable gardeners.
The colors of moths and butterflies are achieved with scales or
modified hairs, and hues can be muted and camouflaged, or brilliant
spots and dots, streaks and bars.
Butterflies are nectar feeders, and feeding stations just for them
can be purchased through catalogs and nature stores to add interest
to your garden. Plant flowers that produce plenty of nectar or a butterfly
bush (Buddleia) and you’ll have lovely winged visitors until
For more information on butterflies, check the website www.naba.org.
They should have an article on the Fourth of July Butterfly count
as well as general interest articles on butterflies.