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Enjoyable butterfly counts

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Four West Michigan Butterfly Association (WMBA) count summaries are posted in Table 1. Community members participated with WMBA members. Counts are part of a North American Butterfly Association (NABA) continent wide program. Michigan has 17 plus or minus counts annually. For various reasons not all counts occur each year. As Michigan’s editor, I examine count results and the data are published by NABA annually. Not all data have been received for 2020. We will see how Covid-19 affects this year’s adventures. Hopefully outdoor counts continued with adequate social distancing and masks. 

Personally my immune system is compromised with uncurable terminal multiple myeloma cancer. I thank people for wearing masks to protect others, themselves and me. Mostly, I continue to stay at home except for weekly chemo and rare outings.

Each butterfly count is organized differently. We travel in one group to help each other with searching and identification. Some groups split and survey small sections of their count area individually to provide greater site coverage. Locally we like the single group. It helps new people learn species and habitat associations. 

Table 1 shows that both species and individual numbers vary among count circles. Reasons for variance include dates for counts and habitat suitability. As the season progresses, different species end flight periods and new ones begin. Highly important is habitat size and plant composition. We try to visit a good representation of habitats in each count circle. Count circles have a 7.5-mile radius from a selected center point that remains constant from year to year. Rogue River and Muskegon counts have been surveyed for more than 30 years. 

Fifty-six species were observed on our combined four counts. That is about 1/3 of all Michigan species. At the bottom of Table 1, notice the species and numbers for each count. Included are the immature butterfly life cycle stages found as egg, larva, or chrysalis. 

To learn butterflies and associate them with habitat, consider joining the WMBA and participating in the 2021 local counts. Club members are friendly and helpful. If interested in other Michigan or national counts contact me for information. You can contact me now and I will reach out to you next summer. Contact me if you are interested in acquiring the book Michigan Butterflies and Skippers by Mo Nielsen. I have some of the last remaining copies.

Google the “West Michigan Butterfly Association” web site or contact me for club or butterfly information. 

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.


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