Butterfly Watching

Sure you've heard of bird watching. You may know someone who watches the birds that come to his or her feeders or who goes on early morning bird walks to see and hear different kinds of birds. But have you ever heard of butterfly watching? Butterfly watching is a fairly new hobby for people interested in nature. Instead of trying to catch butterflies, watchers try to see them, identify what kind they are and watch what they are doing.


Here is what to do. Go outside on a sunny day. Bird watchers wear browns and greens so that they blend into the background but you can wear bright colored clothes which may even attract butterflies. Bring binoculars if you can, but they are not essential. Find some flowers and watch to see if butterflies or moths come to feed. Visit different habitats, backyards in new neighborhoods, old neighborhoods, parks, woods, meadows, and wetlands.

Can you figure out what kind of butterflies or moths you are seeing? 

Look them up in books like:

  • Butterflies and Moths: A Guide to the More Common American Species (Golden Guides) by Robert T. Mitchell and H. S. Zim
  • Butterflies Through Binoculars by Jeffery Glassberg
  • How to Spot Butterflies by Patricia Taylor Sutton and Clay Sutton

Look them up at websites such as Butterflies and Moths of North America.

Keep a list of the different kinds of butterflies and moths you see.

Try to ask and answer some questions about the butterflies you see:

  • What plants do they feed on?
  • What plants do they lay eggs on?
  • What do their caterpillars eat?
  • Where do they pupate?
  • How many generations do they have each year?
Watch for butterfly behavior:
  • Can you see any butterflies defending a territory by chasing other butterflies away?
  • Can you see any butterflies gathering at puddles or other damp spots for water and salts?
  • Can you see any butterflies mating?
  • Can you see any butterflies spreading their wings to warm up in the sun?
Not finding many butterflies? How about planting a butterfly garden? More on how to garden for butterflies can be found at the Butterfly Site.
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