IT STARTS in the spring with the arrival of painted ladies and clouded sulphurs. Then come the skippers and the Gulf fritillaries, followed soon after by American snouts and the viceroys. The heat of summer opens the door for common wood nymphs, and as summer turns to fall, the giant swallowtails spread their wings.
While some 130 species of butterflies are native to these parts, another 30 or so spotted in Arkansas are vagrants, meaning they’re just passing through while en route to more temperate climes. Our little corner of the world is along their migration route, and the height of summer is prime butterfly-peeping time.
That’s where you come in.
For 20 years, the North American Butterfly Association has conducted a count program to keep track of our winged friends, using the data gathered to chart population changes and ranges—data that can help scientists analyze the health of our ecosystems and the climate’s effects on them. But the scientists can’t do it alone. They need volunteers—both seasoned lepidopterists and curious newbies—to assist in spotting butterflies in a 15-mile area over the span of a single day. In Arkansas, that day is July 14, and that area is a circle around Queen Wilhelmina State Park. Wear long pants and sturdy shoes, bring enough water and sunscreen to last through an Arkansas summer afternoon, and come ready to track down these graceful globetrotters as they flit around the park. (queenwilhelmina.com; (479) 394-6927)
Study up on the butterflies you’ll likely spot during the count
This family of large colorful butterflies includes over 550 species. The swallowtail can be identified by its forked hindwings.
Most members of this family are white, yellow or orange with black spots or lines on their wings. Common species aresulphurs, whites and orangetips.
These brown butterflies get their common name—snouts—from the noselike palps on the front of their heads. Look for small angular wings.
With 6,000 species scattered worldwide, this is the largest family of butterflies. They are typically brightly colored and hold their wings flat while resting. Our state butterfly, the Diana fritillary, is a family member.
There’s a reason the members of this family are commonly called gossamer-winged butterflies—their delicate wings are brightly colored, often iridescently.
Commonly known as longwings, these red-and-black butterflies have elongated forewings and small hind wings.
Called skippers because of their speedy flight, these small, hairy butterflies are usually colored dull brown and orange.
Learn more about this year’s butterfly count (the North American Butterfly Association’s 20th!) at naba.org.