• Vermont Butterfly Big Year Takes Flight

    A Peck's Skipper nectars Button Bush in a backyard pollinator garden in Vermont. / © K.P. McFarland

    A Peck’s Skipper nectars Button Bush in a backyard pollinator garden in Vermont. / © K.P. McFarland

    With the help of an army of citizen scientists, the Vermont Butterfly Big Year, a project of the Vermont Atlas of Life, aims to record every species of butterfly in Vermont this year. It’s a blend of science, education, competition, enjoyment, and a quest to monitor the changing nature of the state. Climate change, invasive species, habitat loss, and other environmental concerns are altering the biological diversity of Vermont. And with your help, VCE is trying to understand what this means for butterflies.

    VCE biologist Kent McFarland led a six-year atlas of butterfly diversity across Vermont, involving hundreds of volunteers and producing a landmark report for the state in 2007. The Vermont Butterfly Survey, a project of the Vermont Atlas of Life, established a baseline accounting of butterfly distribution and abundance throughout the state.

    “It has been almost a decade since the atlas,” said McFarland. “Atlases are typically repeated every 25 years, so we won’t have another effort like that until around 2027. But with eButterfly making the task much easier, we thought it was time to get a quick, one-year snapshot across the state.”

    The Vermont Butterfly Big Year aims to get volunteers of all kinds to search fields and fens, mountains and meadows, even their own backyards, to help document every species of butterfly in Vermont and in as many locations as possible. Digital cameras and eButterfly make this mission easier for volunteers and our biologists. A real-time, online checklist program, eButterfly provides a new way for everyone to report, organize, and access information about butterflies in Vermont and beyond. Launched in 2013, eButterfly provides rich data sources for basic information on butterfly abundance, distribution,and phenology.

    Butterfly watchers have already reported seven species of butterflies on eButterfly. On March 27th several Mourning Cloaks and a Milbert’s Tortoiseshell were reported. Recent warm weather has produced more spring species, incredibly many of these species overwinter in Vermont as adults.

    Check the Vermont Butterfly Big Year List to see what has been reported.

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