Make Every Butterfly Count at the Antioch Dunes

August 20, 2013 by Matthew Bettelheim

Throughout August and September this year, wildlife biologists at the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge will be conducting their annual Lange’s metalmark butterfly counts to determine the health of this rare butterfly species.

The Lange’s metalmark butterfly (Apodemia mormo langei) can only be found at the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge in Antioch, California. There, this butterfly’s life revolves around its host plant, the Antioch Dunes buckwheat. Adult butterflies are short-lived and weak fliers, relegating them to this relict 67-acre pocket of sand that was once part of a greater dune complex that connected the San Joaquin River to dunes in the Central Valley and beyond. After years of sand mining at the Antioch Dunes, today the Lange’s metalmark butterfly is nearing extinction.

That’s why refuge staff need your help censusing the butterfly population. Butterfly counts are scheduled twice a week (Wednesday and Thursdays, with one exception: on Tuesday, August 20th), every week, until counts zero out sometime in December:

  • August: 7, 8, 14, 15, 20, 22, 28, 29
  • September: 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26

Newcomers and veterans alike are welcome to participate, but you must be 18 years or older. Training begins on site at 9:30 AM, and the counts continue until 4 PM. Volunteers are cautioned to wear layered clothing in anticipation of the unpredictable cold, wind, or listless heat; sturdy shoes/boots and long pants (jeans) for uneven terrain and spiky weed seeds; sun-protection (e.g. sunblock, sunglasses, hat) and plenty of water; and your lunch.

If you are interested in volunteering for the Aug-Sept. butterfly counts, please contact Susan Euing (by email at susan_euing@yahoo.com or by phone at (510) 521-9716. If you leave a message, please leave your name, phone number and email address, and Susan will contact you as soon as possible to confirm.

For more details and directions, visit the refuge website: http://www.fws.gov/refuge/antioch_dunes/Get_Involved/Butterfly_Survey2013.html

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