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Results of the 20th annual Iowa City Butterfly Count
by Rick Hollis

Chris Edwards, Kent Park


The 20th annual Iowa City Butterfly Count was held Monday, 7/23. It was shifted from the normal Saturday date because of the weather.

Frank Olsen and Chris Edwards conducted the annual Iowa City Butterfly Count as part of the North American Butterfly Association’s [NABA] 4th of July Butterfly Count Program. They visited Kent Park, Hawkeye Wildlife Area, Macbride Nature-Recreation Area, Lake Macbride State Park, Turkey Creek Preserve, and also counted along roadsides including several alfalfa fields. The long-term average for the count is 33 species and 1153 individuals. This year in 10.5 hours they found 33 species and 1952 individuals.

Species seen in significantly above-average numbers:
Cabbage White

Monarch A IMG_3384

Monarchs were found in record numbers.

Clouded Sulphur
Orange Sulphur
Little Yellow
Viceroy (record high)
Monarch (record high)
Silver-spotted Skipper (record high)
Least Skipper (record high)
Peck’s Skipper
Tawny-edged Skipper (record high)

Species seen in significantly below-average numbers:
Eastern Tailed-Blue
Summer Azure
Pearl Crescent
Red-spotted Purple

Pearl Crescents were down in 2018.
This Pearl Crescent was photographed on an Indiana Count

Common Wood-Nymph
Black Dash (missed)
Dun Skipper (missed)

They found 4 Monarch caterpillars on swamp milkweed.

From the NABA site, “Three of the main goals of NABA’s Butterfly Count Program are to (1) gather data that will monitor butterfly populations, (2) give butterfliers a chance to socialize and have fun, and (3) raise public awareness by hosting events that will increase general interest in butterflies.” To meet these goals, NABA requires a minimum of four observers and six party-hours. If it’s mostly cloudy or completely overcast, Chris waits for a sunny day because the butterflies are a lot less active and harder to find in cloudy conditions. In the rain, it is almost impossible to find butterflies.

2018 Iowa City Butterfly Count Results

Peck’s Skipper were up this year.

Silver-spotted Skippers are one of the most easily identified Skippers.







Sachems are a more difficult ID challenge for the beginner. They were not found on this year’s count



Author’s note: Many people in Iowa City know Chris as birder, a birder with great ears — he was the main ears for the bird part of the Ciha Fen Multiple Species Inventory and Monitoring Program. During many of my experiences in the field with Chris, I do not remember him taking an interest in butterflies. I asked him about this and he said, “I spent one summer when I was eight collecting butterflies, then mostly forgot about them. When I became a birder in my 20s I started to notice them again.”

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