First Annual Butterfly Count

Become a citizen scientist and join the Kent Conservation Advisory Committee (KCAC) for its first annual Butterfly Count on Saturday, July 18 from 10am to 2pm. The count will start at the Nimham Mountain State Forest parking area on Gipsy Trail Road. Those who join in on the count will actually be supporting the North American Butterfly Association’s (NABA) efforts while adding to Kent’s Natural Resource Inventory by finding as many butterflies as possible.

Okay, just what is a butterfly count? Well, it’s much the same as a bird count except participants search for and count butterflies at certain sites for a limited period of time. The annual reports are then compiled by the NABA and help determine the geographical distribution and relative population sizes of the species counted. By comparing results over a period of years, scientists and others can monitor changes in butterfly populations and study the effects of weather and habitat change on butterflies. The NABA and other interested organizations then develop plans to protect butterflies from extinction.

Photo of a giant swallowtail butterfly giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

A giant enjoys a backyard snack. Photo: Beth Herr

Why butterflies? Because butterflies can actually represent just how well – or not – Mother Nature is doing. The NABA reports that butterflies quickly react to changes in their environment. A decline in butterfly populations should be treated as an early warning sign for additional wildlife loss. So counting butterflies is much like taking Mother Nature’s pulse.

Butterfly habitat, meadows where wild growing plants such as milkweed and violets, each contributors to a butterfly’s life cycle, have, in fact, declined. That and excessive use of pesticides are, according to NABA experts, two of the major threats to the butterfly population.

Participants will learn about the habits and habitats of these brilliant insects, visiting four different meadows by caravan. Hike leader and KCAC Chairwoman, Beth Herr, will compile the butterfly sightings and help participants look for butterfly eggs, caterpillars, and chrysalides. In addition to butterflies there are other summer delights which are likely to be found in the tall grass fields and forest edges.

“Counters” should be prepared to stand and watch for periods of time. Anyone wishing to bring a pair of close-focus binoculars may do so but a pair of eyes is actually quite sufficient. Participants should wear sturdy shoes and long pants. Please bring water and lunch, but leave the family dog at home for this outing. Children over six years are welcome.

Registration is required for the count so please contact Beth at (845) 228-5635. In case of rain – when butterflies wisely choose to stay under cover – the count will be postponed until Sunday, July 19, same time, same place. If that happens we’ll announce it on the home page and by email to hike announcement subscribers.

For further information on butterflies and butterfly counts, visit the NABA website.