Keeping Track Of Butterflies

Jul 3, 2016

Nature enthusiasts around the state are monitoring butterflies for an annual survey taking place across North America. Many factors, including climate change and pesticides, are affecting butterflies,  hindering their ability to successfully breed and develop.

“There he is!” shouted Cynthia Warren, board president of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. She had spotted a red admiral butterfly with a small group of volunteers, who note the types of species they spot and how many, as part of the conservation group's 13th annual butterfly count.

Eugenia Marks, ASRI's former policy director, led the activity at the group’s wildlife refuge in Bristol. It’s one of several sites where volunteers will gather more data for the official count later this month.

Butterfly counts are an important tool to keep track of the health of species, such as monarchs, which are threatened by habitat destruction and other factors.

“Programs can be developed to either encourage people to plant milkweeds [and] to work with the Mexican government to preserve the forests where they spend the winter,” said Marks.

ASRI will host four more butterfly counts on July 23 at Trustom Pond Natural Wildlife Refuge in Charlestown, Powder Mill Ledges Wildlife Refuge and Newman Wildlife Refuge in Smithfield, and Fisherville Wildlife Refuge in Exeter. 

The butterfly data will be sent to the North American Butterfly Association, which has organized this annual census across the continent since 1993.