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Big Butterfly Count

Big Butterfly Count 1

How do we know how well our butterflies are faring... when we don't know where they are (or aren't)? Here in NZ most people don't even know what butterfly species we have.

We learned this in 2019 when we did our first national survey of butterfly species, and realised we needed to do much more education before we embarked on another project like this. And now, with the help of technology and the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, it is much simpler.

Big Butterfly Count

On the weekend of 17 and 18 February 2024, New Zealanders were encouraged to do a 15-minute butterfly count. They chose somewhere where they were able to repeat the exercise year after year. Those who had a smartphone downloaded the app (purple icon).

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Using the app the data was recorded online. So much simpler as all the necessary information (weather, temperature, site) was recorded in the background. But even those who didn't have a smartphone were able to download the paper sheet (link below) to record their 15-minute butterfly count. They also needed a pen/pencil and a timer.

Big Butterfly Count 2024 Tally Sheet

Under each species, they used a tally to record the highest number of that species they saw at any one time. They drew a short line to represent each record e.g. three kahukura seen at one time was "|||". If they saw four kahukura, they added an extra line. The next (fifth) mark went across the earlier four, so that they had a group of five. See the illustration below.

Keeping Count

At the end of the 15 minutes, they counted the groups of five, and added any "odd" marks to get a total.

They needed to add the details as to location etc, and their contact details. Written sheets were then mailed to MBNZT, PO Box 44.100, Pt Chevalier, Auckland 1246 OR scanned and emailed to us at .

Recorders carried out their counts in defined areas such as a gardens, parks or paddocks, while walking along, or sitting/standing at a fixed point counting butterflies that flew past. We recommended choosing a time when it was sunny and warm, with no rain, and not too windy. The best time to see the most butterflies is usually early afternoon.

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