Approximately 3 percent of butterfly species are threatened with extinction. This decline in butterfly populations is attributed primarily to habitat loss due to urbanization and agriculture. As populations continue to decrease, a growing need to more closely monitor species is developing. Because there is little distinction between some types of butterflies, identification and classification proves to be a challenge. Very few Lepidopterists (scientists who study butterflies and moths) exist; therefore monitoring population sizes and ranges of butterfly species is a daunting task.
Worldwide, there are nearly 17.500 species of butterflies, grouped into five families: Hesperiidae, Papilionidae, Pieridae, Lycaenidae, and Nymphalidae. Close to 750 species inhabit the United States and Canada, most notably the Monarch and Regal Fritillary that can be found in Nebraska and surrounding states.
Nationwide, butterfly counting events have become popular for families, schools, and hobbyists alike. Not only do they provide a valuable learning experience, but they also allow individuals to partake in citizen science. By participating, citizen scientists are able to provide researchers with useful data. Lepidopterists are able to utilize information collected from butterfly counts to pinpoint regions or species of interest for additional studies.
Contact the Education Department at (402) 738-2092 or scouts@OmahaZoo.com to inquire about training programs.
If you have a youth or adult group such as a 4-H or garden club, please contact us about a private workshop. Must give at least three weeks notice for registration and have a minimum of five participants. Availability is seasonally. Contact the Education Department at (402) 738-2092 or scouts@OmahaZoo.com to inquire about setting up training programs.
Monarch Butterflies migrate large distances from Mexico, where they winter, to central and northern United States. To gain a better understanding of their populations and migration patterns, citizen scientists tag monarchs in late summer early fall when monarchs are in their “Super Generation” on their way back to Mexico. The tags are in conjunction with MonarchWatch.org and the University of Kansas that take the data collected during the tagging and monitor migrations.
Contact the Wildlife Safari Park Education Department at (402) 738-2092 to inquire about training programs.