Southern Wisconsin Butterfly Association, NABA Chapter

Home Join About Field Trips Meetings Resources News Butterfly Watching Butterfly Counts

Watching Butterflies in Wisconsin

Tips for Watching Butterflies

Guides to Finding Butterflies in Wisconsin

Tips for Watching Butterflies

Butterflies can be found in many places, including your own backyard, especially if you practice butterfly gardening. City and county parks, and state parks and forests, state wildlife areas, arboretums, state natural areas, The Prairie Enthusiasts' properties, Madison Audubon Society sanctuaries, and The Nature Conservancy properties are great places to start. Join SWBA on a field trip to explore new territories.

• Close-focusing binoculars are very helpful for identifying butterflies and enjoying them more by bringing small details to life. Learn more about SWBA' s recommended binoculars for butterfly watching.

• Field guides and Wisconsin Indexes. Probably the best overall guide for our area is Jeffrey Glassberg's Butterflies through Binoculars, The East. Also excellent are Butterflies of North America by Kenn Kaufman and Jim Brock and Jeffrey Glassberg's new field guide, A Swift Guide to Butterflies of North America. Be sure to download free indexes developed by SWBA president Karl Legler: Quick Index to Glassberg, Quick Index to Kaufman, and Quick Index to Swift, that list page numbers for Wisconsin species found in each book. Just tape in your field guide(s).

• Digital Camera. If you can't identify a butterfly, or just want to capture its portrait, a digital camera can be a great addition to your butterfly watching toolkit.

• Getting closer. Try to move slowly and gracefully when you approach a butterfly so you don't startle it.

• Timing. Visit areas at different times of the season, as butterflies species emerge at different times. Just one week can make a big difference.

• Look for nectar flowers such as butterflyweed and bee balm as butterflies will congregate here. Edges of shallow puddles or moist dirt on backroads and trails are great places to find puddling butterflies. Animal scat, rotting fruit, and tree sap are also popular sources of nutrients for butterflies.

• Weather/Attire. Butterflies are easiest to find on warm, calm sunny days. You need not get up at 5 a.m. to butterfly. But you will want to bring plenty of water, sun protection, and sturdy shoes.

• Sharing your findings/Help with ID. Wisconsin Butterflies is the website where butterfly watchers can share their sightings, post photos, get help with identification, find an online field guide, and find out what butterflies are being found in other parts of the state.

Guides to Finding Butterflies in Wisconsin

The following guides to finding lepidoptera in rich butterfly areas in Wisconsin were developed by Ann Swengel, noted lepidopterist. All guides include best times to visit, habitat requirements, tips for searching, identification clues, maps, and more.

The Delightful Diversity of Butterflies at Crex Meadows by Ann Swengel (download pdf file) The northwest corner of Wisconsin holds several surprises: Mottled Duskywing, Leadplant Moth, Purplish Copper, Karner Blue, Western Tailed-Blue, and much more.

The Bountiful Butterflies and Birds of Buena Vista Grasslands by Ann Swengel (download pdf file) Don't miss this exciting grassland in central Wisconsin, where you can find Regal Fritillary, Gray Copper, Karner Blue, Leonard's Skipper, and several rare species of grassland birds.

The Beguiling Butterflies of the Jackson County Pine-Oak Barrens by Ann Swengel (download pdf file) The many special lepidoptera of the central Wisconsin pine-oak barrens are definitely worth a road trip. Learn where to find such elusive species as Frosted Elfin, 'Karner' Melissa Blue, Phlox Moth, Olympia Marble, Gorgone Checkerspot, Persisus Duskywing, Cobweb Skipper, Leonard's Skipper, and Dusted Skipper. The data and observations in this article are based on more than 20 years of surveys. This detailed guide is almost like having Ann and Scott Swengel with you in the field!

The Fascinating Butterflies of Northwestern Wisconsin Bogs by Ann Swengel (download pdf file) Wisconsin bogs are one of the most accessible places in North America to explore peatland butterflies. Find out where to find such rarities as Bog Coppers; Dorcas Coppers; Freija, Frigga, and Purplish fritillaries; Jutta Arctic; and Red-Disked Alpines, plus many other butterflies. You will also learn the difference between a "cowabunga" bog and a "heart-attack" bog!