Butterfly Count Day...

We knew if Will Richardson, from the Tahoe Institute for Natural Science (TINS), was going to organize a hike of any kind, it would be exceptional. Today's, whose theme was one of my favorites- butterflies, was extraordinary.

The North American Butterfly Association has run the Butterfly Count Program in the United States, Canada, and Mexico since 1993. Each of the approximately 450 counts consists of a compilation of all butterflies observed at sites within a 15-mile diameter count circle in a one-day period. The annually published reports provide a tremendous amount of information about the geographical distribution and relative population sizes of the species counted. Comparisons of the results across years can be used to monitor changes in butterfly populations and study the effects of weather and habitat change on North American butterflies.

We were educated every step of the way, constantly stopping to see something special.
Our first lesson occurred at this milkweed patch. Monarchs cannot survive without milkweed; their caterpillars only eat milkweed plants, and monarch butterflies need milkweed to lay their eggs. While there was no evidence of these magnificent butterflies, we were excited to see where they might be. We'll be back to this spot often with hope of a sighting.

Will is a firm believer in "catch, educate and release". What a treat it was to see these butterflies up close.

While our purpose was to count different kinds and quantities of butterflies, I couldn't ignore the other interesting insects that were flying about.

One interesting fact we learned was how to tell the difference between a butterfly and a moth (the above is a moth). The most obvious difference is in the feelers, or antennae. Most butterflies have thin slender filamentous antennae which are club-shaped or have 'balls' on the end. Moths, on the other hand, often have comb-like or feathery antennae, or filamentous and no balls. Since I love alliteration, balls on butterflies. I'll never forget it now.

We saw several species of butterflies with Will proclaiming it a "good day". We could not agree more.

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Karen Booth said...

Super impressed with the dragonfly and bee photos!

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