Congaree National Park Invites Kids To Join the Butterfly Count Program

The public is invited to learn more about butterflies and help count them as part of a special citizen science program June 11.
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Tamela Rich
The joy of holding a fragile butterfly may be the beginning of your child's love affair with the natural world

You don't have to be a child to appreciate the magic of butterflies as they waft on invisible air currents and congregate at the edge of mud puddles. There is a lot to appreciate about butterflies besides their ethereal natures; they can tell us a lot about the health of our environment.

If you would like enjoy a day in the woods as a family observing and counting butterflies as citizen scientists, I've got a great opportunity for you this month.

June Butterfly Count at Congaree National Park

All ages and experience levels are welcome and invited to join the Congaree National Park Butterfly Count on Saturday, June 11 beginning at 9:00 am. After a brief introduction, volunteers will work with experts and divide up into groups to survey (spot, identify, and count) butterflies in diverse areas of the park.

Located southeast of Charlotte, Congaree is the closest national park to Charlotte

Kids doing important work

Citizen science is defined as scientific work undertaken by members of the general public, often in collaboration with or under the direction of professional scientists and scientific institutions. Every kid would be proud to say, "I'm a citizen scientist!"

Don't worry about the difficulty of participating. Congaree will offer a range of hiking options from easy, family-friendly strolls to backcountry hikes. Some counting groups will be out most of the day (as late as 3:30 or 4:00 pm), but other groups can accommodate families who need to return by lunch time.

The program will begin at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center. Participants should wear long-pants, wear closed-toed shoes, and bring a water bottle. Bring sun protection, bug spray (though not *too* much deet, please—it’s bad for the butterflies too), snacks and a sack lunch. If you have binoculars, butterfly field guides, and digital cameras go ahead and bring them; a limited number of butterfly field guides and binoculars are available from the park for loan at no charge.

Why counting butterflies is important

Butterflies are not only beautiful, they are also ecologically important as pollinators and indicators of ecosystem health. Some butterflies require specific plants or climate patterns to survive, and many may be specifically affected by habitat loss, pollution, and disease.

By studying changes in butterfly populations over space and time scientists can learn a lot about our changing world. Such a project, however, requires eyes and feet (as opposed to expensive laboratory machines) to help spot, identify, and count butterflies. That's where you and your kids can offer valuable services.

The data will be reported to the North American Butterfly Association, which has been coordinating annual counts since 1975. By compiling this data with other counts from all across the continent, scientists can make maps and measure changes in butterfly populations over time. 

This program is coordinated through the Carolina Butterfly Society, the North American Butterfly Association, and the NPS Old-Growth Bottomland Forest Research and Education Center.

It's a free event, reservations required

The Butterfly Count program is free, with limited space. Advance reservations are required. Call 803.776.4396.

For more information, contact David Shelley, Education

Coordinator, Old-Growth Bottomland Forest Research and Education Center at or 803-647- 3966.

For more information about Congaree National Park, call 803.647.3970 or visit