NH Butterfly Monitoring Network

Heidi Holman, Wildlife Diversity Biologist, NH Fish & Game Department

Butterfly observations are so common and yet precious. Do you know what species you are seeing if it is not a monarch? These beautiful flyers are present all over our state in every inch of available habitat including wetlands, woods, fields and backyards. The places that you look, how often you look and what season you are looking will determine what species you see.

Butterflies are different from birds that they are not so cryptic in the leaves of trees and shrubs; they are often out in the open on full display nectaring from beautiful flowers. They are out on sunny days when we also like to be outside. Females of many species lay large numbers of eggs in small patches making it likely that when you see one you will likely see a few more that day to confirm the species!

Over the next few years, NH Fish & Game in collaboration with partner organizations including UNH Extension, aims to increase the awareness of butterflies, the variety of species and the unique places they live. The federally endangered Karner blue butterfly is one of the most famous species that conservation partners have been working to recover in the state; most recently in-depth research on the rare endemic butterflies of our White Mountain region has also started. There are over 100 species of butterflies in NH, others may also need conservation action.

The work that we can do together will establish a baseline for each species including their distribution, an index of abundance, and the means to track their trends over time. In the absence of this information species may decline and even disappear with little acknowledgement.

Admiral butterfly, Great spangled fritillary, and an American Copper butterfly

The goals of the NH Butterfly Monitoring Network is to promote awareness of butterflies, provide a community to connect with for learning and activities, and harness the greatest value from data that can be collected by a broad group of people across the state. In its first year (2022) two butterfly clubs have formed including the Super Sanctuary Butterfly Club associated with the Harris Center for Conservation Education and the Lake Sunapee Butterfly Club associated with the Austin Sargent Land Trust. Plans are in the works for three new clubs in the Capital region, the Mount Washington Valley and the Seacoast in the upcoming year. These clubs meet monthly to learn butterflies by color and family group with names such as Swallowtails, Blues, Satyrs and Skippers.

The use of various applications such as iNaturalist and eButterfly are the easiest way for people to get started collecting observations when they are outside. In addition, our goal with these clubs is to initiate annual surveys following a national protocol developed by the North American Butterfly Association that will standardize the information and make it usable by researchers across the country.

Check in with our website and be on the lookout for events advertised by Nature Groupie over the next few years to see how you can become part of the effort!

Blue-Butterfly Day by Robert Frost
It is blue-butterfly day here in spring,

And with these sky-flakes down in flurry on flurry

There is more unmixed color on the wing

Than flowers will show for days unless they hurry.

But these are flowers that fly and all but sing:
And now from having ridden out desire

They lie closed over in the wind and cling

Where wheels have freshly sliced the April mire.