Annual Count Shows Butterflies Are Doing Fine
By Anne Ellis
Butterfly Count Coordinator
The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s 24th annual butterfly count was held on the first Saturday of August, as usual, but with a few changes in response to health safety concerns. Ten very small teams, wearing masks and keeping their distance, headed out in the warm, sultry summer weather to make the count. The count data is provided to the North American Butterfly Association and can help determine the health of our region’s biome.
This year many observers expressed concern that butterflies seemed fewer than usual, certainly fewer than last year. Ideas about why this might be so ranged from extreme cold in May (remember that frost after Mothers’ Day?) to extreme heat and drought in July (another record breaker). Additionally, the teams deployed to count the butterflies were small: fewer eyes = fewer sightings, right? With a total of 4485 butterflies in 50 species identified, 2020 was still well above average for flight. So, although it seems like there are fewer butterflies, it is not borne out in the numbers.
Most of the numbers of butterflies we tallied this year were about average or above average compared with previous years. Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, though not quite as numerous as last year, are still plentiful. Common Buckeyes are down drastically from last year yet still a strong showing compared to earlier counts. Skippers, those fast little brown butterflies, are well represented, both in number and species. Check out all the results here.
After having all our walks and programs cancelled for most of the spring and summer, it was great to get out with small groups and be able to socialize distantly and in a safe way. Our profound thanks to the volunteers who made this count a success and special thanks to our leaders: Carol Beckman, Joe Coleman, Phil Daley, Allison Gallo, Bryan Henson, Gerco Hoogeweg, Jon Little, Larry Meade, Michael Myers, Julie Paul and Erik Raun.