Consider it a butterfly migration pattern, if you will.
What would inspire retired UofL biologist Charles Covell to make the 750-mile trek from his Gainesville, Florida, home to the Louisville area each summer – and then spend a day of his visit in the woods and fields of Oldham County with some people he has never met? Once a teacher, always a teacher.
Covell has thrived on leading the annual butterfly count expedition for four decades. Along with other regular volunteers, he shows children and adults how to identify the winged insects they encounter at UofL’s Horner Wildlife Sanctuary and other nearby property.
“It is a real treat to see a very young person discover butterflies and see them up close,” said Covell, who began collecting the insects at age 13.
This year’s June 30 count will be done in a specified area from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., although participants can leave when they wish. Covell suggests the counters wear hats, hiking shoes, long pants and long-sleeved shirts and bring sunscreen, water, lunch and insect repellent. The experts will supply nets but volunteers also can bring cameras, binoculars and notebooks to use. The results are part of a national butterfly census.
Volunteers should meet at 9:30 a.m. in the parking lot of Sugar Babe Antiques, 7511 Highway 329 in Crestwood, about one mile northwest of Interstate 71’s Exit 14 and about 20 miles north of Louisville.
If it rains steadily, the count will be postponed until the same time Sunday, July 1, if that day’s weather is clear.
“Here’s an opportunity to view a number of common Kentucky butterflies and learn their names and a little bit about their life histories and benefit to us as pollinators, food for birds and other animals and often-overlooked objects of beauty,” Covell said.
Last year, 14 nature lovers counted 818 butterflies from 37 species adding to the 40-year total of more than 32,000 butterflies tabulated.
“We want to know what butterflies appear year after year and which ones are new to our list,” he said. Last year’s local count included one new entry.
The 2004 UofL retiree now works as an adjunct curator for the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera & Biodiversity in Gainesville. He wrote the books “Butterflies and Moths of Kentucky: and the 1984 Peterson “Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America.” He and Richard Henderson of Louisville co-founded in 1974 the Kentucky group devoted to the study of butterflies and moths.
“Members of the Society of Kentucky Lepidopterists meet throughout the commonwealth to look for new species of moths and butterflies, of which we have counted over 2,500 species so far,” Covell said.