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Nature Watch: Everything from Armadillos to Zebra Butterflies

Fun with Numbers

You like butterflies, both the subtly colored and boldly patterned, but you really don't know where to find more than the most common varieties in your area. Worse, none of your friends shares your interest in these creatures, so even if you find a prime butterfly-watching spot nearby, you'll be going there alone. The solution? Take part in your local Fourth of July Butterfly Count.

Started in 1975 by the Xerces Society, an organization dedicated to the conservation of all invertebrates, the Fourth of July Butterfly Counts are now administered by the North American Butterfly Association. They're styled after the popular and long-running Christmas Bird Counts, and here's how they work: Each count area consists of a circle 15 miles in diameter. Count participants form separate parties and scour the count circle for butterflies. They search in meadows, gardens, bogs, woods, along roadsides . . . just about anywhere butterflies can be found. The aim is to count not only species but individual butterflies, too.

And why exactly do people count butterflies? First and foremost, it's a fun activity. Then there's the friendly competition of trying to record more butterflies than the group in the next county or state. And finally, the information collected from these counts helps us better understand butterfly populations and habitats.

Of the 350 or so Fourth of July Butterfly Counts now taking place each year in North America, only three will be celebrating their twenty-fifth anniversaries this summer: the count in Berkeley, California, the count in Gilpin County, Colorado, and the count in the Lower Pearl River area near the Louisiana-Mississippi border. Meanwhile, in Palm Harbor, Florida, a thousand or more butterfly watchers will probably take part if the turnout this year is anything like past years.

Click here to find the Fourth of July Butterfly Count nearest you.