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Butterfly Pavilion Releases Nine Years of Butterfly Monitoring Data Showing Monarch Butterfly Momentum Increasing in Colorado

Butterfly Pavilion Releases Nine Years of Butterfly Monitoring Data Showing Monarch Butterfly Momentum Increasing in Colorado

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                      

 Media Contact: Jennifer Quermann, 


Westminster, CO – February 1, 2022 – Today, Butterfly Pavilion released the 9th Annual Colorado Butterfly Monitoring Network (CBMN) Report on the state of Colorado native butterfly populations, revealing heightened sightings and reporting of Monarch Butterflies throughout Colorado. CBMN, celebrating its 10th year of consecutive monitoring in 2022, is a long-term community science project relying on volunteer monitors to record and identify butterflies throughout Colorado.  The report suggests that 2021 was the best year in the past decade for monarch butterflies in the state, which is consistent with the increased monarch sightings across North America this past year.

“We are enthused to find that monarchs in Colorado showed an approximate 180% increase from the mean over the past seven years of our monitoring efforts, said Shiran Hershcovich, Lepidopterist Manager, Butterfly Pavilion. “The results are promising with the 2021 CBMN field season seeing a return of butterfly, monitor, and survey numbers higher than those in 2019.”

Since its inception in 2013, CBMN, one of the nation’s fastest-growing butterfly monitoring program, has recorded 107,811 individual butterflies and logged 3,166 butterfly surveys, accounting for 3,795 hours of volunteer monitoring through 2021. This past year included 12 counties including Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Douglas, El Paso, Gilpin, Jefferson, Larimer, Ouray, Routt, and Weld.

2021 Top Findings:

  • In 2021, all categories saw improvement from 2019 numbers and two categories set new high records: the hours spent monitoring and the number of surveys submitted.
  • Monitors observed and reported Monarch butterflies in all but two monitoring counties (Gilpin and El Paso) this season, with a count of 124 placing the species into the Top 25 Butterfly Species seen for the first time since CBMN was established.
  • Between 2014 and 2020, monitors observed and recorded an average of 44.3 monarchs each year. In 2021, monitors recorded 124 monarchs, roughly a 180% increase from the mean over the past seven years of monitoring.
  • Monitors observed and reported 120 total unique, identifiable species among all counties surveyed this season. Jefferson County exhibited the highest number of species seen, likely because of the county being home to the largest number of monitors, routes, and surveys submitted.
  • The 2021 CBMN field season experienced a return to numbers comparable to the 2019 field season across all categories evaluated. The decline in numbers seen in 2020 was likely attributed to the record-setting wildfire season in Colorado that impeded butterfly populations and outdoor activities, and the ongoing, global COVID-19 pandemic impacted volunteer participation.

“While we’ve got a lot of great data, we still need more,” said Shiran Hershcovich, Lepidopterist Manager, Butterfly Pavilion.  “That’s where the public comes in with community science programs, such as our monitoring networks at Butterfly Pavilion, to cover more geographies and support pollinator conservation.”

Volunteers Make it Happen

The CBMN is above all a community science project, and the most valuable resources are the monitors who volunteer their time to the program.

“This is people-powered science”, says Hershcovich. “When our community gets involved in these efforts, they become stakeholders in conservation and stewards for the protection of our native invertebrates!”

The 61 active monitors in the program in 2021 contributed 551.2 hours of time toward butterfly monitoring, helping to assess and identify butterflies throughout Colorado. In total, the active monitors submitted 502 surveys; this is the highest number of both surveys and hours that the program has seen across nine seasons of monitoring.

How it works

The CBMN involves trained volunteer monitors walking the same route at least six times throughout the butterfly monitoring season (here defined as May 15 – October 15, 2021) and recording every butterfly seen in a 6-meter radius.

During a survey, only one monitor observes butterflies at a time, however monitors are advised to work in pairs, allowing one to conduct the survey while the other keeps notes and aids with identifications. At the beginning and end of each monitoring session, monitors record the time, the temperature, the cloud cover conditions (clear, mostly clear, partly cloudy, mostly cloudy, overcast, or hazy) and the wind conditions (calm, relatively still, moderately windy, wind, or very windy). The monitors then walk the route at a steady pace, recording every butterfly seen inside their area of choice within their community. 

About Colorado Butterfly Monitoring Network

The Colorado Butterfly Monitoring Network (CBMN) is a community science project led by Butterfly Pavilion that harnesses the power of volunteers to conserve Colorado butterflies. Butterflies are not only beautiful, but they also play a vital role in the ecosystem. CBMN data informs us on which butterflies are active in our state, giving us important insight on the health of our local ecosystems. CBMN volunteers observe and count butterflies in open spaces and parks multiple times per season, gathering essential data that land managers can use when making conservation decisions. It’s a fantastic chance to get outdoors and learn about butterflies, while having a positive impact on conservation in Colorado.

CBMN, one of the nation’s fastest-growing butterfly monitoring program, began in 2013 with four active monitors collecting data on five routes. The 2014 season saw major growth to 54 active monitors surveying 49 routes. The program has seen consistent monitoring since the 2014 season, with between 52 and 63 monitors reporting data on between 51 and 61 routes each year from 2015 through 2021.

About Butterfly Pavilion

Butterfly Pavilion has been part of the Colorado community since 1995 and is the first Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)-accredited, stand-alone, non-profit invertebrate zoo in the world, currently occupying a 30,000-square foot facility situated on an 11-acre campus provided by the City of Westminster, Colorado. Butterfly Pavilion’s mission is to foster an appreciation of butterflies and other invertebrates while educating the public about the need for conservation of threatened habitats in the tropics and around the world.

Beyond Colorado and the United States, Butterfly Pavilion conservationists are doing important invertebrate research projects around the world from Mongolia and Saudi Arabia to Peru and Indonesia. Closer to home, a new Butterfly Pavilion Baseline development will open in Broomfield, Colorado in 2025 setting the global standard for invertebrate science and conservation. The $55M, 81,000-square-foot facility will include greatly expanded guest experiences, world-class research labs and a much larger zoological facility.

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