How to participate
There are three potential ways you can participate in this important project:
- Record and submit your incidental butterfly observations from wherever you see them in BC;
- Monitor one or more individual sites (e.g., such as a backyard garden or park) over time; or
- Comprehensively survey one or more 10 km x 10 km atlas squares over one or more years.
Sightings, photographs, and specimens all constitute records useful to the Atlas. You don’t have to be a butterfly expert to participate in the project. Unidentified butterfly photos can be submitted for identification by a team of experts.
Instructions for each type of participation are provided below.
What is a butterfly record?
A butterfly record (or observation) suitable for the Atlas is made up of several pieces of information. It is essential that records are accurate, particularly the species identification. Recommended butterfly identification resources for BC as well as tips for identification are available on the project website.
To aid in identification, carrying a butterfly net to briefly capture butterflies is highly recommended. Photos are also useful to document the species seen and can be submitted with your records to confirm the identification. Photos need only be good enough to be useful for identification and do not necessarily need to be high quality. Sight records will be accepted, however, if in doubt about a record, it is best not to record that sighting. All submissions will be reviewed by experts prior to inclusion in the Atlas.
Collecting voucher specimens is also an option for more experienced participants, provided the specimen will be deposited in a publicly available collection, such as at a museum, a university, or in a publicly-accessible private collection. Specimen collection should generally be undertaken only with some previous experience or training. Do not collect any rare species.
At a minimum, FIVE important pieces of information are required for all butterfly records submitted to the BC Butterfly Atlas:
- Date and time of the observation,
- Name of the observer(s) (incl. contact info),
- Butterfly species observed,
- The number seen, and
- Location (see further details below).
In addition, when rare or unusual species (e.g., species outside their normal range) are observed, it is useful to give as much detail as possible about the locality so that follow-up visits can be made to assess conservation needs. Space for comments is provided on the forms. If rare species are observed by sight only, a description of the characters used to make the identification should be provided.
Incidental butterfly observations
Incidental butterfly observations may include sightings made or photographs taken on your own property, while walking or hiking in your local natural area, or while travelling in another part of the province. Although not made as a detailed site survey or monitoring effort, all of these sightings can provide information useful to the Atlas and should be recorded.
Use the Incidental Observations Form (Form A) to keep a running record of these observations over the course of a trip or the entire butterfly season.
Monitoring individual sites
Some participants may prefer to record observations or photograph butterflies at a single site over time, such as a backyard butterfly or flower garden or a nearby park or greenspace. This approach is similar to backyard birdfeeder monitoring programs for birds and provides useful information not captured by other approaches, such as the timing of flight periods for particular species each year.
Use the Single Site Monitoring Form (Form B) provided for this type of individual site monitoring.
Surveys of 10 km x 10 km atlas squares
While incidental sightings and site-based monitoring can contribute to mapping species distributions, more comprehensive surveys are also needed to specifically target previously unsurveyed areas and to record the presence, timing, and abundance of all species in a given location. Such surveys will produce a more accurate picture of the status of butterflies in BC. To encourage this type of survey and to more evenly distribute survey efforts, the BC Butterfly Atlas is coordinating standardized volunteer surveys across as many as possible of a grid of 10 km x 10 km squares covering the whole province. The minimum survey effort within each square we are hoping to obtain is 16 hours per square. Methods for the atlas square surveys are as follows:
Choose a survey area: Atlassers should consult with the Atlas Coordinator to choose one or more 10 km x 10 km atlas squares in which to focus their butterfly recording efforts. These squares cover the whole province and are the same squares used for the recent BC Breeding Bird Atlas project. Overview maps showing the distribution of squares in each area as well as detailed maps showing the boundaries and features of each square are available from the Atlas Coordinator.
Identify suitable sites to survey: Once you have selected your square, choose at least three and no more than 10 sites within the square to survey. Try to find examples of different habitats that are representative of the conditions in your square, e.g., woodland, grassland, farmland, roadsides, etc. as each will support a different range of butterfly species. You can use existing knowledge of where different species of butterfly have been previously seen to select your sites. Each site should take between 30 minutes to two hours to survey. Large sites may be divided into sub-sites for surveying. See Figure 1 for an example map showing survey sites selected within a square.
Timing of visits: Each site should be visited at four different times over late spring and summer to survey when different butterfly species may be flying. These visits can be done over one year or over several years, although visits to the same site in a given year should be at least three weeks apart. For example, on southern Vancouver Island, preferred survey times are early May, mid-June, mid-July, and second half of August. In the Okanagan, preferred timing is last week of April-first week of May, mid-June, mid-July, and the first two weeks of August. (Contact the Atlas Coordinator for the preferred timing in your area.) Ideal survey conditions are warm sunny days (temperature 16⁰C or greater) with little or no breeze. In cool overcast or rainy conditions you are unlikely to see butterflies in flight. Surveys should generally be conducted between mid-morning (about 10 am) and mid-afternoon (about 4 pm), although some species may fly earlier and later in hot conditions. Re-visits to sites, while not required, may also be valuable to record species whose populations vary widely from year to year.
Access to survey sites: Always obtain appropriate permission before surveying. If you need to enter private property when carrying out field work, seek permission from the landowner first – this project does not convey any rights of access to private land.
How to survey: Move through a site at a slow walking pace. It is not necessary to follow a fixed route. Feel free to meander through a site and target areas likely to contain butterflies (most often open areas with flowering plants), although stay on trails if it is required by the park or landowner. When approaching butterflies, move slowly and avoid rapid movements. Record any butterfly you can identify with certainty, no matter how far it is from you. While some species can be identified at a distance, others require close examination. As mentioned previously, carrying a butterfly net is useful for capturing more difficult to identify species to confirm their identification or to facilitate taking photographs.
Butterfly identification: As mentioned previously, it is essential that records are accurate. Sight records will be accepted, however, try to obtain at least one voucher photograph (or a voucher specimen if experienced in collecting and the species is not rare) for each species per square. Photos need only to be good enough to be useful for identification and do not need to be high quality. If in doubt about a record, it is best not to record that sighting.
Recording data: Atlas square survey results should be recorded on the Site Visit Form (Form C). One form should be filled out per site per visit, even if no butterflies are seen. Use multiple forms if you run out of space for recording. Several fields are essential to fill in. For each whole site, record the site name, date, location (see box on this page), observer(s), and start/end time of surveys. Record the species observed, number seen, identification method (use suggested codes), and a specimen or photo number, if a photo was taken or specimen collected.
Optional data: Other fields provided on the field form are optional to fill in, including weather and temperature, and habitat types present at the site.
Locations of butterfly observations
There are two alternatives for recording the locations of butterfly observations (whether sightings, photographs, or voucher specimens):
Location Description: Describe the site location precisely and briefly using landmarks and roads (e.g., 2.5 km W of junction of Hwy 1 and Nanaimo River Rd, off west side of road). If necessary, provide a small sketch map or draw locations on a printed map. Street addresses can be provided but do not substitute for a detailed description since addresses can change over time.
Coordinates: If you have a GPS unit or GPS-enabled mobile phone (such as an iPhone), provide the Latitude and Longitude of the site or observation(s) in decimal degrees (e.g., 49.2699N, -123.1422W) or in Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) coordinates (e.g., E489656 N5457470). Be sure to have the projection (also known as the geodetic datum) set to NAD83. Contact the Atlas Coordinator if you need help setting this on your GPS. If you are using UTM coordinates, also record the UTM Zone.
Using coordinates to document observations is preferred, although not mandatory. Providing both a location description and coordinates for observations is useful for providing a check on the data provided.
When possible, butterfly observations should be mapped to at least 1 km accuracy, and preferably 100 m accuracy, so that data can be used to support conservation work. For rare species, higher accuracy (ca. 10 m) is preferred. Practically, this accuracy is relevant in two ways. First, coordinates should be provided with sufficient accuracy – to at least four (and no more than six) decimal places if using decimal degrees and to at least the nearest 100 m if using UTMs (1 UTM unit = 1 meter). More accurate records are preferred. Second, this also affects the number of GPS points needed to represent multiple observations from surveys of larger sites. For single observations or very small sites, a single GPS point can represent the locations of the observation(s). However, for larger sites (>1 km in radius), using several GPS points to map observations is recommended (e.g., record a new GPS point every 100 m during the survey and record butterflies associated with each GPS point separately – see Figure 1 for examples). Record the maximum coordinate uncertainty as a general indication of the accuracy of the location information provided.
If you use Google Earth or topographic maps to produce your coordinates, please indicate this on the data form.
Although also optional, additional notes on the relationships between butterflies, plants, and their habitats can further help to build our knowledge of the habitat requirements of different butterfly species. For many species, field observations of the host plants used in BC are lacking. Types of observations that are useful and should be recorded include the specific habitat types used by particular species, potential host plants present, plants used as nectar sources, and plants used for egg-laying (also called oviposition) if observed. The back of all field forms has space for these additional notes on each species observed.
If you are not able to identify the plant species being used by a butterfly, take a photo and submit it along with your butterfly observations for identification by our team of experts.
To manage butterfly records and photographs collected through the BC Butterfly Atlas project, we have partnered with eButterfly (www.eButterfly.ca), a new online tool for recording and managing butterfly observations and lists while contributing data critical to the study and conservation of butterflies. Records collected in BC will be shared between the two projects.
Records can be provided to the Atlas in two ways:
Via eButterfly: Records can be entered and photographs submitted directly to the eButterfly website. Initially, you will need to create a user account and password on eButterfly to submit and manage your records. Visit the BC Butterfly Atlas website for a link to the data submission page and for instructions for using eButterfly. This is the preferred method of providing data to the Atlas.
Via email, fax, or mail: Completed forms or records (including photographs) can also emailed, faxed, or mailed to the Atlas. With your permission, we will upload your data and photos to eButterfly.
To submit data or for more information on the BC Butterfly Atlas project, contact:
Atlas Coordinator: Patrick Lilley
Phone: 604-812-2578 or 778-340-3455
BC Butterfly Atlas
c/o Echo Blue Environmental
#12-3175 Baird Rd
North Vancouver, BC V7K 2G5
Thank you for your participation!
Last Revised: January 2013 (v1.1)