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Maine Butterfly Survey

With at least 118 species native to Maine, butterflies contribute a colorful and conspicuous component to our state’s biological diversity.  Butterflies play an important ecological role in terrestrial and wetland ecosystems by serving both as pollinators of many wildflowers and as prey (both caterpillars and adults) to larger species ranging from dragonflies to neotropical migrant birds.  Butterflies are also widely recognized for their value as ecological indicators of ecosystem stress due to such factors as climate change, pollution, and habitat loss (Sparrow et al. 1994).  Their potential economic contribution in terms of “watchable wildlife” is difficult to estimate, but clearly no other group of insects has attracted as much attention from amateur naturalists and ecotourists, a group whose ranks increasingly include bird watchers armed with close-focusing binoculars in place of collecting nets.  Many neighboring state’s and provinces -- Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Brunswick -- have compiled updated atlases of their butterfly fauna, but despite growing local interest in butterflies and their conservation Maine has only a baseline level of knowledge of the group (See Webster and deMaynadier 2005 under “MBS Press & Publications” to download a baseline assessment of Maine’s butterflies).

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