Butterfly “seekers” are needed to help document and photograph butterflies across British Columbia.
The David Suzuki Foundation’s Butterflies in My Backyard project is once again recruiting volunteers to help find butterflies in B.C. Cabbage White, Woodland Skipper, Morning Cloak, Common Wood-Nymph and Melissa Blue were among the butterflies spotted in B.C. in 2022.
More than 300 volunteers became “BIMBY Seekers” in last year’s initiative, which ran from May to October. During that time, they made 8,400 observations, helping to provide data that conservation scientists use to formulate policies to protect vulnerable butterfly species in the province.
“We all have a role to play in stewarding the beautiful butterflies that share our landscapes with us,” said Tara Moreau, associate director at the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden. “Observing and recording these species is essential to protecting them for future generations.”
The Great B.C. Butterfly Search Report, published in December 2022, stated that B.C. has the highest butterfly biodiversity in Canada, but the size of the province makes it difficult for any one person or small team to attempt to catalogue the state of this diversity. The 8,400 butterfly entries to iNaturalist by BIMBY volunteers in 2023 included the common Cabbage White to the highly endangered Johnson’s Hairstreak – and 116 other species.
In addition to an initial training session, volunteers will participate in monthly check-in Zoom meetings where they’ll share strategies for finding and photographing butterflies.
As well as tracking the abundance and diversity of butterflies, BIMBY Seekers selected for 2023 will get a new task to do while walking their transects (set paths): documenting native plants on which butterflies feed and lay eggs. This will help the project gain better insight into these inter-species relationships.
“The most powerful aspect of transects comes when they are visited weekly for numerous years,” said Michelle Tseng, a UBC zoologist and one of the authors of the BIMBY 2022 report. “Because we know the distance and speed of the BIMBY Seeker walking, if we see an increase in butterflies along that specific route year over year, we know it is because populations are actually increasing and not because more people are looking for butterflies.”
Butterflies in My Backyard is a “citizen science campaign” hosted by the David Suzuki Foundation on the iNaturalist platform. BIMBY volunteers work alongside Tseng and Moreau to observe and collect butterfly data. Their goal is to help find endangered and prevalent butterflies and better understand their relationship with native plants.
According to the David Suzuki Foundation, B.C. butterflies are threatened by pesticides, climate change and habitat loss. The BIMBY project team hopes the data collected in 2023 will help present a clearer picture of butterfly health and help inform conservation efforts.
“We are in the midst of a climate and biodiversity emergency, which is bad news for nature and the species that depend on it. We’re one of those species, so it’s time for everyone to get involved,” said the BIMBY report. “Every action we take contributes to resolving our environmental challenges.”
For details on BIMBY or to apply to be a BIMBY Seeker, go to www.tinyurl.com/BIMBY2023.