Volunteer efforts across the region keep track
of our fine fluttering friends
The flashy colors of butterflies are matched only by their names: red admirals, great spangled fritillaries, tiger swallowtails, painted ladies and summer azures. On July 10, 13 volunteers at the North American Butterfly Association (NABA)’s annual Fourth of July butterfly count spotted all these species in all their regalia. The volunteers, who identified 18 other species too, visited six sites in a 15-mile radius around Bryn Mawr, Pa., to document all the butterflies they could find. More than 400 teams (including one at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge) participated in NABA’s three seasonal counts to provide snapshots of butterfly populations.
Volunteers included butterfly enthusiasts and parents looking to connect their kids to nature. Butterfly volunteer Jan Clark-Levenson says that walking through fields and forests to see what flutters by is “a child-friendly sort of thing.” Claire Morgan, community garden and volunteer coordinator for the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education—one of the stops for the Bryn Mawr team—says the butterfly census is an opportunity to engage non-scientists in important research. It is also a chance to promote butterfly-friendly practices. But if Philadelphians want to help, “the biggest thing they can do is plant native plants,” Morgan says. Natives not only offer flowers to adult butterflies but serve as hosts for their caterpillars.