Butterfly count organizer, Jeff Skevington (above), reports low numbers of species and individuals this year…

by Jeff Skevington, photos by Angela Skevington

Twenty-six participants had a fun day on the count this year, but were challenged by both water levels and weather. Heavy storms the night before left all of the vegetation wet. This, combined with overcast skies, meant that there were few butterflies seen in the morning. The sun appeared in the afternoon, though, and we managed to get a reasonable idea of what species were around and their relative numbers. The temperature was cool and varied little during the day (19-21 degrees C).

Many parts of the count site were inaccessible and places that we did visit that are typically dry had a great deal of standing water.

Water levels were the highest we have seen on the count. Many places were inaccessible as a result, and places that we did visit that are typically dry had a great deal of standing water. For example, the alvar in most years is exceptionally dry with many plants wilted from the lack of water. This year there was standing water in many places on the alvar, over 30 cm deep in spots.

We had 4 group leaders this year (we often have 6), so some areas were not covered. Four Monarch Butterfly larvae were noted and a larva of Hyles euphorbiae (Spurge Hawk Moth) was collected for rearing. The latter is the first I am aware of in the Ottawa area.
No rare butterflies were seen. Hairstreaks and angle wings were largely absent and fritillaries were in very low numbers. All of this is related to the wet year we have had, and most species seem to be very late emerging. We hope to see them in the coming few days if we get some sunshine.

Bluet damselflies mating.

Our species total for the count (43) was the lowest since we split the count into multiple areas with area leaders. Typical counts are usually in the low to mid-50s. The individual count (661) was the lowest in 15 years and is reflective of the scarcity of most insects this year.

Thanks to everyone who came out on the count!


NOTE: The North American Butterfly Association has coordinated butterfly counts following the same format as Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) for many years. These counts are published as part of an ongoing program of NABA to census the butterflies of North America (see www.naba.org/counts.html for more information). Volunteer participants focus on a 24-km diameter circle and conduct a one-day census of all butterflies sighted within that circle. As with CBCs, there is a $4 charge to participants to support the publication of the results (not obligatory, but encouraged).

The Ottawa count area is centred at Manion Corners (SW of Ottawa), a site formerly used as a non-OFNC count circle. It includes several important butterfly areas, such as the Long Swamp and the Burnt Lands alvar. It is an all-day event.

Count data for 2017 (excel spreadsheet)

Data for all years, 1998-2017