Be a Citizen Scientist! USGS Wants Your Dead Butterflies to Help Save Them

New Citizen Science Project asks for help in collecting dead butterflies to study contaminants and environmental factors causing population declines.

by | Aug 4, 2023

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) is embarking on a unique citizen science initiative that invites the public to participate in a nationwide effort to contribute to our understanding of butterfly and moth populations.

The alert has called on citizens from six states including California, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Idaho – to assist in collecting and submitting deceased butterflies, moths, and skippers.

“There are some questions that can’t effectively be answered without help from a lot of people. It’s what makes citizen science so special and valuable,” Julie Dietze, the USGS scientist in charge of the effort, said in a press release. “Collections like this one are important because they have the potential to provide scientists now, and 20 years from now, access to specimens.”

Scientists at the USGS need these to conduct a scientific research study which will establish a Lepidoptera Research Collection (LRC). This open science project will scientists identify contaminants and environmental factors contributing to the insect population decline.

What the Study Consists of:

This study will specifically be looking at identifying antibiotics, pesticides, hormones, and mycotoxins in Lepidoptera. Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas are the states chosen for this study based on three factors:

1. Locality relative to the migration pathway of the Monarch butterfly

2. Presence of Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)

3. Locality relative to the Corn Belt.  

Collection Requirements:

Any submitted insects must already be dead and may not be collected alive.

The insects must be larger than 2 inches / 5.08 centimeters and the specimens cannot be protected under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Endangered Species Act or listed as threatened or endangered under State Law.

Among the six states involved in this project, the Mitchell’s satyr Butterfly is currently the only protected species and is found in Alabama. Scan the QR code for more information on protected species in your state.

Collection Instructions:

Please submit dead butterflies, moths, and/or skippers inside a resealable plastic bag. It is okay to combine the submissions and send insects damaged or not fully intact.

Place specimens inside seal envelope with proper postage affixed and place in USPS mailbox or deliver in person to this address: USGS LRC, 1217 Biltmore Drive, Lawrence, KS 66049. If you cannot ship the dead insects within three days, please freeze them before shipping.

A Collaborative Effort:

This initiative, which emphasizes the importance of citizen engagement in scientific research, offers a unique opportunity for individuals to contribute to the study. While it might sound unusual, these deceased butterflies can provide invaluable insights into the habitat preferences, diversity, and abundance of these species.

This citizen science project began in April 2023. The deadline is November 1st, 2023.

So, there’s still plenty of time for you to help in this valuable citizen science project to help save butterfly populations. To participate, people can follow these steps below.  

Read the full news release here.

Learn more about the USGS LRC and inset research currently underway: USGS Ecosystems Mission Area Environmental Health Program.

Questions? Contact Julie Diez:

Contract Laboratory can help your company with all types of insect testing by connecting you with our network of certified testing labs. Submit a free test request on our website or call us toll-free at 1-855-377-6821.

See more insect testing test requests here.

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