Killarney’s 15th Annual Butterfly Count: What’s Happening with Killarney’s Butterflies?

On July 7, Killarney Provincial Park celebrated the 15th Annual Butterfly Count completing a decade and a half long snapshot of its butterflies.  The event provides volunteers with an opportunity to learn about and make a connection with our spectacular butterflies.

When we think of butterflies, it’s often the adult form that comes to mind:daintily fluttering around without a care in the world, fragile, colourful, simple creatures.  In reality, every day of a butterfly’s life is a struggle aimed at completing the next stage of a complex lifecycle.  From egg to caterpillar to chrysalis, particular environmental requirements are necessary if they’re going to be successful.  Since Killarney started doing the count in 1999, we’ve watched certain species come and go, and observed large fluctuations in population.  It has been suggested that our rapidly changing climate may have an impact on the distribution of butterflies.  As butterflies are dependent on specific plant species, temperatures, and moisture levels, a change in any one of these due to climate could have an effect.

Since the 1950s, volunteers have been called upon to act as citizen scientists and contribute to butterfly research.  The great mystery of the monarch migration was solved with the help of citizen scientists involved in tagging programs.  Like the monarch research of the 50s, monitoring events help to track changes and movements of species within the environment.  These observations often motivate researchers to investigate further in search of answers.  Last season we observed two species new to the Killarney count namely a common buckeye (Junonia coenia) and little yellow (Eurema lisa).  This season again we are expanding our list of local butterflies with the addition of an indian skipper (Hesperia sassacus).  Evidence found at our count will contribute to a database of butterfly distributions found across North America.  Further investigations by researchers using this data may help to answer the question as to whether our butterflies are being impacted by changes in climate.

If you’re interested in getting out there to make discoveries and contribute to citizen science, attend a butterfly count.  Check out the count map for a list of all the North American Butterfly Counts.  Annual butterfly counts occur at parks across Ontario including Killarney, Algonquin , MacGregor, Pinery, and Rondeau. Check out the Ontario Parks events page for more information on these counts.