Northern Neck Master Naturalists
Trained & Certified Virgina Master Naturalists


Questions and Answers related to Butterfly Counts

Here are a few composite Questions and Answers related to Butterfly Counts

Question: Are there any recommended Field Guides on Butterflies?

Answer: There are many Field Guides out there but here are several that come with recommendations from experienced butterfly watchers. The recommended ones are good for novices and experienced “geeks.”  They are easy to use as field guides and are organized similar to Birding Guides.  They use high quality pictures or illustrations.  A lot of field mark information is provided as well as size comparisons.  Quite interesting is information on habitat, abundance, and each species major food plant. 

Arguably the easiest guide to use is the Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America by Jim P. Brock and Kenn Kaufman.  Another very good field guide is Butterflies through Binoculars: The East by Jeffrey Glassberg.  By the same author, another recently published volume of information on butterflies is A Swift Guide to Butterflies of North America.

But as a novice, a field guide that is easy to like is Northern Virginia Butterflies and Skippers: A Field Guide by Robert Blakney. It covers 90 butterfly species that have been found in Northern Virginia during the past few years.  230 photos and a species per page makes it easy to use and learn from.  Also, the focus is exclusively on species we are likely to see in our travels in Coastal Virginia.

So here are three field guides certainly worth considering.  All these field guides are available on line from book sellers such as Amazon.

Question:  Why is the butterfly count on 30 July only Lancaster and Northumberland rather than the whole Northern Neck Master?

Answer: This inaugural count is part of the annual North American Butterfly Association count that collects data in North America. 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 consist of a compilation of all butterflies observed at sites within a 15-mile diameter count circle in a one-day period. These events are similar to Christmas Bird Counts. For the Northumberland-Lancaster Butterfly count the same 15-mile circle will be used that was established for the Northumberland-Lancaster Christmas Bird Count.  The circle - centered near Wicomico Church covers areas to include parts of Reedville, Kilmarnock, Irvington, Lancaster Courthouse as well as the Hickory Hollow, Hughlett Point, and Dameron Marsh Nature Preserves as well as many of the various communities and lands of the two counties.  

The count on the 30th of July is now I believe to be the 24th annual count registered in Virginia for 2019.  

A 25th butterfly count for Virginia that includes additional areas of the Northern Neck is also registered.   This second of the inaugural counts will occur in September.  It will be publicly announced in August.  This count includes portions or segments of Westmoreland, King George, and Richmond Counties.

The annually published reports of these citizen science focused butterfly counts 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.

For more information on upcoming butterfly counts or on the 16 July butterfly work shop contact Jeff Wright at

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