Got 15 minutes to spare?

If you've got those minutes to spare somewhere from July 17 and Aug. 9 you can join in the Big Butterfly Count and help "take nature's pulse." It's a great citizen science project in which folks of all ages and abilities can participate.

Photo: Red Admirals are around in great numbers this year!

It's a simple process. You go to Big Butterly Count's site and download a chart to help you identify common species. Next you choose a place to count: your garden, a friend's garden, a park or woodland. Record the number and species of butterflies you see during that period. Finally, submit your findings to the site. Your data is combined with that of other citizen scientists all over the country to be used in valuable research. 

Why count butterflies?

As explained on their site...

"Butterflies react very quickly to change in their environment which makes them excellent biodiversity indicators. Butterfly declines are an early warning for other wildlife losses.

That’s why counting butterflies can be described as taking the pulse of nature.

The count will also assist us in identifying trends in species that will help us plan how to protect butterflies from extinction, as well as understand the effect of climate change on wildlife."

A better year for butterflies?

I don't know about your garden, but it's been a great year for butterflies in mine. So far I've seen Eastern Swallowtails, Red-Spotted Purples, Mourning Cloaks, Painted Ladies, Hairstreaks, Fritllaries, Skippers and a boatload of Red Admirals! And this past weekend I've spotted many Monarchs. A few Monarchs visited early since I've discovered caterpillars on the various milkweed species in my garden.

Photo: Milkweed planting initiatives are poised to help increase Monarch butterfly numbers!

I'm not claiming all the credit for this. Sure, I've got more than enough butterfly favorites in my garden, both nectar and larval host plants, but weather has played a big part in the increased numbers. A milder winter favored more butterflies, something we can't control but can be thankful for this year. Keep in mind milder winters aren't great for all animal species but in this case the butterflies came out on top. 

Another big up vote for Monarch butterflies came in the presidential proposal for planting millions of milkweed plants along the Monarch migration route. If you follow butterfly or pollinator news that's been a positive point among lots of bad news. Good for a change.

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