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Iowa, Midwest see rise in "Pink Ladies" butterflies

Pink Ladies at the Reiman Gardens in Ames. 

Iowa and the Midwest are seeing a surge of one species of butterfly.

Often confused for Monarchs, the Pink Ladies butterflies are in higher-than-usual numbers this summer.

“Really this year is special. Everything has built up to this large population and I haven’t seen numbers like this for 12 to 15 years,” said Nathan Brockman, butterfly wing curator at the Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University.

In a typical year, Brockman says they see a dozen or so but one surveyor at Reiman recorded numbers as high as close to 800.

Pink Ladies reproduce and grow rapidly, which is part of why there is such a large population. Brockman says with what trends he was seeing, he anticipated it would be a "really good Pink Ladies season."

To pinpoint these trends, Brockman and other entomologists get some help from average people across the state.

"Citizen scientists," as Brockman calls them, help him get annual butterfly data at the same location site, data he and others couldn't access otherwise because there are simply not enough people in his field to do it.

What makes this data collection so easy? An app.

“We’ve actually created an app that people can use to track and survey butterflies and it’ll actually do GPS points of where every butterfly was seen and creates a little map route of where you walked.”

If you're interested in becoming a citizen scientist and helping Brockman and Reiman Gardens collect butterfly data, you can join the Iowa Butterfly Survey Network.

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