Charleston – There are 17,500 species of butterflies in the world, and 750 species in the United States. The Urban Butterfly Initiative (UBI) wants to know how many of those species are in Coles County – and they are conducting a “Butterfly Blitz,” complete with prizes – from July 27 through August 4 to find out.

The event is designed to engage area residents to take pictures of butterflies and upload them to iNaturalist (www.inaturalist.org). After signing up for a free account, you can submit photos online via computer or by using the iNaturalist phone app. iNaturalist even helps identify the type of butterfly so people do not already know the species to contribute. However, a free, downloadable guide on our common local butterflies is also available at www.urbanbutterflies.org/butterfly-guide.

Dr. Paul Switzer, Director of UBI, says that there are a lot of benefits to participating in the Blitz. “We hope that people become more aware of butterflies and the butterfly habitat we’ve created in our area,” Switzer said. “Also, the data we’ll get from the submitted photos will help us assess butterfly populations. We plan on having Butterfly Blitzes every year, so we will be able to compare observations from year to year.”

Butterflies and other pollinators are critical parts of the natural community and their populations have been declining over time. “Figuring out what butterflies are in our area is an important part of tracking their well-being,” Switzer added.

Earlier this year, Charleston was recognized as "Butterfly Capital of Illinois" by the Charleston City Council and the Urban Butterfly Initiative for its community-wide efforts in promoting butterfly habitat, awareness, and education.

Any butterfly observed during July 27-August 4th, 2019 in the Charleston, Illinois area and submitted to iNaturalist will be tallied. All of Coles County will count for the Blitz, but UBI is especially interested in butterflies found at their hotspots in Charleston, at Lake Charleston, and at Fox Ridge State Park. (Specific locations below.)

“Life is Better with Butterflies” bumper stickers will be given to all participants. The top contributor of (1) observations and (2) most different species will receive a free copy of "Butterflies of Illinois: a field guide" or a free bike tune-up from Bike & Hike-Charleston (one prize per person). Participants and top contributors should contact the Urban Butterfly Initiative after August 4th to arrange to pick up their prize (on Facebook or at ubutterflyinitiative@gmail.com ).

Hotspot Locations:

Charleston: Carnegie Public Library and Gazebo Park downtown

Lake Charleston: Pavilion, Red Barn, and Woodyard Conservation area

Fox Ridge State Park: Cabin Pond and Possum Holler

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