NABA Butterfly Counts

Annual NABA butterfly counts depend upon volunteers, aka Citizen Scientists, aka YOU, to go outdoors and observe butterflies and tally what you see. The data you collect is used by scientists and others to understand changes in butterfly populations, species migrations, and more.

Backyard Butterflies is the compiler for two NABA butterfly counts in the piedmont region. We welcome you to join us for either one or both counts. We recommend reading through the FAQs first before signing up to join us. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are NABA butterfly counts?

The North American Butterfly Association (NABA) has been conducting its count program since 1993. There are approximately 450 counts conducted annually in Canada, USA, and Mexico.

A count is a one day census of butterflies observed by one or more parties within a 15 mile designated diameter. 

Each count has a compiler, the person who collects the data from all parties and submits the count totals to NABA. 

There is a $3 participation fee collected by count compilers that is used by NABA for costs associated with conducting the counts. In order to encourage people to join us we cover the participation fee as part of our education and community outreach programs. 

Who is welcomed to join a butterfly count?

All ages and skill levels of identification are welcome to participate. Newcomers will be partnered with more experienced butterfliers. If you are recording butterflies in your backyard on count days, be sure to take photos if possible of uncommon or rare butterflies for positive identification.

How do you count butterflies?

As we walk through natural areas we make note of the butterflies sighted around us. Sometimes we are able to have an exact tally, whereas other times we might make a reasonable estimate if there is a large congregation of butterflies on a nectar plant or puddling on the ground. If we walk back through an area we only count those species we didn’t observe before.

What should I bring with me to the count?

A backpack or bag in which to stow water, snacks, and other essential items you might need for being outdoors with triple digit heat indexes. Binoculars, camera, field guides, insect spray, sunscreen, change of clothes, and a towel or two are optional items to bring with you.

What amenities are available during a butterfly walk?

It depends on the location of the count. Those counts taking place in the state parks will have access to flush or composting toilets, picnic areas, and water fountains. Counts that are conducted outside of state parks may have no public facilities. Contact the count compiler to find out what amenities are available during the count.

Do I have to participate the full 6 hours?

Generally, no. However, it’s best to check with the compiler to find out their expectations of participants.

How physically fit do I need to be to join a count?

A butterfly count is not a high intensity athletic event. We make our way through areas averaging at a pace of 1 mph. The first 3 hours of the count in the morning is the most comfortable. As the afternoon sun arrives the heat increases and staying hydrated becomes essential. 

We think counting butterflies is a fun experience to be enjoyed. We conduct our counts taking into consideration the needs of participants. We understand if you need to take a break or leave the count because of the heat or fatigue. Please let us know if you have any questions, concerns, or special needs.

If I'm not able to go on the count, how can I still help?

If you aren’t able to join us on location for a count, but you live within the count circle, you are welcome to submit to us your butterfly sightings on the day of the count. 

How should I dress to count butterflies?

It’s recommended you dress in long, durable pants as we often go off trail into tall grasses and plants. Sturdy footwear is a necessity. Wearing shorts, sandals or flip-flops, or open toed shoes is not advised. Other clothing considerations include wearing a wide brimmed hat, sunglasses, and light fabrics designed for sweating or outdoor hiking.

Participate in a Count

Orange County Count

Sunday, August 8, 2021 • 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM

This count was started in 2017 by the co-founders of Backyard Butterflies.

Guilford & Rockingham Counties Count

Tuesday, August 10, 2021 • 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM

This count was started in 2020 by the co-founders of Backyard Butterflies.

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