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Wyoming

Butterfly Top 10 List

Little-known facts about the butterflies you'll see this summer in Wyoming.


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Watch a video of the first-ever Wyoming Butterfly Blitz, a gathering to catch and count butterflies on The Nature Conservancy's Red Canyon Ranch.

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1. Is that a butterfly or a moth? All butterflies fly during the day, while most moths fly at night. Butterflies also have clubbed antennae (little balls at the tip), while moths have straight or feathery antennae. When butterflies land, they hold their wings up, while moths fold their wings back over their bodies.

2. Some well-known butterfly species (monarch, painted lady) migrate yearly between North America and Mexico or southern California. But this is the exception – most butterfly species spend their entire lives in one small area. Migratory species can live as long as one year, while most live for only days or weeks.

3. Butterflies start out as eggs, hatch into plant-eating caterpillars, and finally form a cocoon or chrysalis from which they emerge as an adult butterfly.

4. The first butterflies you see in the spring have lived over the winter in their adult form. These species often feed on tree sap for energy, allowing them to be active in early or late season when flowers are not in bloom.

5. Adult butterflies deposit their eggs on plant leaves or flowers. Only one percent of these eggs survive to maturity because of harsh weather or predators – adult butterflies and caterpillars are food for many birds and small mammals.

6. Some butterfly species have adapted to changes caused by humans. In southern California, certain species use new plants that people have introduced in their gardens. They are now dependent on these garden plants for survival.

7. The ranges of many butterfly species in North America and Europe have been shifting north as the climate has changed. You can help monitor changes in butterfly populations by participating in an annual butterfly count organized by the North American Butterfly Association.

8. Butterflies are important pollinators, along with bees. Learn more about how to plant gardens that are friendly to butterflies and other pollinators from the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign.

9. You can find butterflies in sunny areas, generally when temps are above 60 degrees and wind is low. Good places to look are along creeks, old roads and near flowers. Males are often found “mud-puddling” in wet mud and on animal dung, seeking minerals and salts they lost during mating.

10.  219 butterfly species have been recorded in Wyoming. See butterflies found in your county.

Amy Pocewicz is a Landscape Ecologist for the Conservancy in Wyoming. She spent more than two years chasing butterflies while earning her Ph.D. at the University of Idaho.

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