Now that white snowflakes have replaced the green leaves of summer, I'm pausing to reflect on what I witnessed during the 2018 butterfly season. To use the song title, "It was a very good year."

On the one hand, the total 9,227 butterflies in 2017 dropped ever-so-slightly from the 9,253 I had in 2016. A dramatic surge to 13,914 happened this year. There was an impressive gain of 4,687 individuals — more than 50 percent higher than 2017.

I'll try to convey the impression these 13,914 butterflies made on me using relative few words and numbers. I feel looking at the butterfly families largely explains the dynamics at play in 2018, so I'll proceed along those lines.


These five butterfly families accounted for 2018's net increase:

• Checkerspots/Crescents. Northern Crescents were a major contributor to the 301 individual increase for this family.

• Fritillaries. The 466 increase was divided among the Speyeria (genus of larger fritillaries) and the smaller Meadow Fritillary.

• Skippers. European, Northern Broken-Dash and Dun Skippers contributed the majority share of the 1,036 increase.

• Monarchs. They enjoyed an even greater increase — going from 321 in 2017 to 1,370 adults this year. In my Oct. 20 column, I had projected 1,569 would be exceeded in 2018. Though they fell short, it was still an impressive increase. Their season that had been sizzling, suddenly fizzled to an abrupt, early end. 

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Source, image(s), credits & more: Park Rapids Enterprise | John Weber Weber