April 25, 2014

The Maine Butterfly Survey Takes Flight for another Season

Dr. Phillip deMaynadier, MDIFW Coordinator: 207-356-2530; phillip.demaynadier@maine.gov Dr. Herb Wilson, Colby College Coordinator: 207-859-5739; whwilson@colby.edu

For Immediate Release April 25, 2014

With at least 120 species, butterflies contribute a colorful component to Maine?s biological diversity. In addition to serving as delicate harbingers of spring, butterflies also play important ecological roles, both as pollinators of wildflowers and as prey to larger species, from dragonflies to migrant birds.

Initiated in 2007, the Maine Butterfly Survey (MBS) is a statewide, volunteer survey effort designed to fill information gaps on butterfly distribution, flight seasons, and habitat relationships for one of the state?s most popular insects. Following in the tradition of previously state-sponsored wildlife surveys, such as the Maine Amphibian and Reptile Atlas Project, data generated from the MBS comes primarily from trained citizen scientists.

To help new volunteers join the survey MDIFW is sponsoring a free six-hour training workshop on May 17th at Colby College in Waterville. Participants will learn about butterfly biology, identification, and MBS survey protocols. Lunch will be provided and participants will receive a butterfly net, collecting equipment, and training manual. Space is limited and pre-registration is required. To become involved in this project or to learn more about Maine?s butterflies contact the MDIFW coordinator, Phillip deMaynadier, at phillip.demaynadier@maine.gov or the MBS volunteer coordinator, Herb Wilson, at whwilson@colby.edu. Also check details on progress to date at the MBS website: http://mbs.umf.maine.edu.

Butterflies are valuable indicators of ecosystem stress due to habitat loss, pollution, and climate change. Their economic contribution in terms of ?watchable wildlife? is difficult to estimate, but clearly no other group of insects has attracted as much attention from naturalists and eco-tourists, a group whose ranks increasingly include bird watchers armed with close-focusing binoculars.

Many neighboring states and provinces, including Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Brunswick, have compiled atlases of their butterfly fauna. Despite growing concern for pollinating insects generally and butterflies specifically, Maine had only a rudimentary knowledge of the group, until now.

There is an increasing demand for information on the health and status of butterflies and other wildlife in Maine. Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) receives requests for data on butterflies from landowners, land trusts, outdoor organizations, and scientists. Of special note is the high proportion of butterflies (~20%) considered Extinct, Endangered, or Special Concern in Maine -- a result consistent with global trends elsewhere for the group. More statewide butterfly surveys could demonstrate that some species are more abundant than formerly believed, while others may merit increased conservation attention. By marshalling the efforts of citizen scientists from across Maine, this multi-year statewide survey is designed to provide MDIFW with a significant increase in knowledge on the status of the state?s butterfly fauna.

We have much to learn about this fragile and ecologically important group of winged jewels. Thank you for your participation in the Maine Butterfly Survey!

Additional photos available upon request.