Butterflies and Citizen Science

Butterflies are one of the most beautiful elements of the natural world, and scientists now recognize that they can also serve as one important indicator of the health of ecosystems. A dedicated group of naturalists and staff at BRDC gathered together Sunday, September 15th to enjoy their beauty and contribute to a nationwide citizen science program that conducts long-term monitoring of butterfly populations.

The North American Butterfly Association Count has been held since 1975. BRDC has selected a count area of 15 miles in diameter centered around our Center and Field Station. The staff and volunteers conducted a full day census of all butterflies observed within that circle. We intend this count to provide results useful for scientific monitoring and to track the species/host plants within various assets surrounding our Center.

It is our hope to perform this count three times a year going forward; Spring, Summer and Fall. This recent count, our Fall count, produced 35 different species of butterflies; a great number of species for this late in the season. I am sure 80 degrees and sunshine contributed to the large showing. We also noted nearly 50 monarch caterpillars in a small area of Whitetop Mountain full of milkweed! We hope to add more community participation in the coming butterfly season. Please enjoy some of the photos and our species list below:

Painted lady
Common buckeye
Red spotted admiral
Common wood nymph
Northern crescent
Silver spotted skipper
Least skipper
Clouded skipper
Peck’s skipper
Tawny edged skipper
Horace’s duskywing
Zabulon skipper
Wild indigo duskywing
Fiery skipper

Eastern tiger swallowtail
Pipevine swallowtail
Spicebush swallowtail
Black swallowtail
Cabbage white
Clouded sulphur
Orange sulphur
Sleepy orange
Cloudless sulphur
Eastern tailed blue
American copper
Variegated fritillary
Great spangled fritillary
Aphrodite fritillary
Meadow fritillary
Pearl crescent
Silvery checkerspot
Red admiral