Butterfly Count 2016: Where Are All the Butterflies?
By Nicole Hamilton
As we headed into the 20th year of our butterfly count on August 6th, many of us wondered what our tally would be. Springtime had been out of whack again. Rains that we should have had in March and April came in May. It was warm then cool; the plants seem to be a little behind the clock too. We wondered about those species of butterfly that overwintered as caterpillars or eggs – would they have food in time to develop or would we miss a brood this year?
Well, as we headed out on August 6th, the weather was great for butterflying so if they were there we would have found them. Seven teams of over 60 people met up in their sectors at 9 a.m. and started spotting, counting and identifying butterflies. Across the teams, however, our team leads reported fairly slow going.
All in all, we recorded just 2,118 individual butterflies but on a day with similar weather conditions we typically would count 3,500-4,500. Our species count was just slightly down. We had encountered 41 species for the day compared an average of about 45. Some species, like the Red Spotted Purple were absent from the count altogether. Just 29 Monarchs were seen, compared to 51 last year. Sulphur numbers were significantly lower. There were other surprise misses too. We invite you to take a look at our 20 years of butterfly count data here to look more closely and numbers that were on par versus down. It’s quite interesting.
As you look at it, think about the host plants that these different species need to survive. It’s all connected.