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For Ontario Nature

Reptile and Amphibian Atlas

Notice to Contributors Seeking to Submit the Most Complete Butterfly Data to Ontario Lepidoptera (the
TEA Annual Lepidoptera Summary) and the Ontario Butterfly Atlas


Download the Data Entry Template



This note describes how records are kept for the seasonal summaries (Ontario Lepidoptera) and the Ontario Butterfly Atlas. Contributors need not follow this format, but those who seek to make their data as readily usable as possible might wish to follow these specifications.

A more basic set of instructions can be found here.

The advantages of storing records in a standard format in electronic form are many. For example, such a system allows for much easier storage, sorting and analysis of records. It also allows the records to be mapped quickly and easily (providing that they also contain a geographic coordinate). The records of rare species will also be incorporated into the rare species databases at the Natural Heritage Information Centre (NHIC) where they will be used for a variety of conservation-related projects and land-use planning.


Key Data Fields

Scientific or Common Name - Contributors need only enter one or the other. Download this list of species found in Ontario. English names are those featured in "The Butterflies of Canada" by R.A. Layberry, P.W. Hall and J.D. Lafontaine, with some updates. Scientific names follow "A Catalogue of the Butterflies of the United States and Canada" by J. P. Pelham, again with some updates.

Observation Date (year, month, day)

County - includes counties, regions, municipalities, districts such as Perth County, Waterloo Region, City of Toronto and Algoma District.Download the full list here.

Location – a description of the location using a prominent landmark is very useful. Some examples include:
- Toronto, High Park
- Little Turtle Lake, S shore, 1 km W of Mine Centre

Adults - the number of adult butterflies recorded. If no number is recorded, descriptive words such as “a few”, “several”, “many” will suffice. If no number was recorded leave this field blank or enter “present”

Immature - for those people that identify caterpillars (larvae), pupae or even eggs, enter the number of each life stage – e.g. 2 larvae

Record Type – it is very useful to know when a record has been documented by a photograph or a collected specimen versus a sight record or one that has been caught and released

UTM (Zone, Easting, Northing, and DATUM) OR.... Latitude & Longitude (see detailed notes below if more information is required on this system). NOTE: If a UTM or Lat/Long absolutely cannot be derived, please send along the record anyway. We can probably derive a UTM from the record.

Coordinate Source - it is helpful to indicate how a UTM or Lat/Long was derived. Options include: a hand-held GPS unit (GPS) a reading was taken from a topo map (TOPO MAP) or coordinates were derived from Google Earth (GOOGLE EARTH) or Google Maps (GOOGLE MAPS)

Other Fields:

Notes - notes on behaviour, clarification of numbers or photographs, any other information (note that there is a separate field for habitat). An example of something that might appear in the notes field is something like: a female was noted ovipositing on Common Milkweed. The term “in copula” can be used to indicate a mating pair.

Habitat – a description of the habitat.

Collection # - some individuals who collect specimens assign a unique collection number to their collections

Collection - if a specimen was collected, this field indicates where the specimen resides. eg. CNC (Canadian National Collection at Agriculture Canada); ROM (Royal Ontario Museum); NHIC (Natural Heritage Information Centre collection); CDJ (Colin D. Jones' personal collection).

Specimen determined by (DET) - if a specimen exists, who determined or identified the specimen

You may have additional fields that you use for your own data management, and if this is the case, by all means feel free to submit your records with or without these fields.


When and where to send records

Normally, each year we'd like to receive all records by December 31. This will provide compilers with enough time to compile and produce the next volume so that it is available prior to the following field season (and hopefully give you enough time to prepare your records). If you can't get your records in by the deadline, let us know the date when you think they could be delivered.

Records for past years are welcome. Although they cannot be used for the seasonal summary, they are quite useful for the online butterfly atlas.

Send records by email to Ross Layberry (rosslayberry@yahoo.ca) or, for hardcopy records, mail them to Ross Layberry, 6124 Carp Road, Kinburn, Ontario K0A 2H0. You can also phone Ross in Ottawa at 613-832-4467.


Additional notes on Location Data (including UTM and Lat/Long)

Precise locations and corresponding geographic coordinates are very important and are the basis for the maps of the Ontario Butterfly Atlas. However, if you supply a detailed description of the location, we can often determine approximate geographic co-ordinates for you.

Accompanying a location name is either a UTM or a Latitude/Longitude, both of which are coordinates used for mapping.

A UTM is basically a numerical value that represents the precise location of a site using a type of grid system. A UTM consists of three sets of numbers. A two-digit "Zone", a six-digit "Easting", and a seven-digit "Northing". Together, these three numbers refer to a precise location. An example of a full UTM would be 17, 693455, 5071456.

Hand-held GPS (Global Positioning System) units are the easiest, and most accurate way to generate a coordinate (either a UTM or Latitude and Longitude) for a location, provided you are physically at that location with your GPS unit. These units are relatively inexpensive, small in size and easy to carry around in the field, and are available at most outdoors and camping stores. They will display geographic coordinates in UTM, Latitude and Longitude, or both. (Read your manual to learn how to change the settings.)

Yet another approach is to use Google Maps. If you want to know the coordinates of a location, just right-click on the map and select "What's here?". The coordinates will automatically pop up in the search box.

When reporting a location using a UTM, there are two grid systems that are used in Canada - NAD27 (North American Datum 1927) and NAD83 (North American Datum 1983). The datum used on an NTS mapsheet is indicated on the bottom of the map. In addition, when using a hand-held GPS unit, you can program your unit to display the coordinates in either NAD27 or NAD83. It is important to indicate the "datum" with any UTM coordinate because, in Ontario, they differ by approximately 200 metres in the Northing (and a little in the Easting). Naturally, NAD83 is the more up-to-date system and is preferred, but as long as the datum system used is provided with the coordinates, a conversion can be made.

Value of Observations

The preparation of distribution maps and atlases depends on geographic data. Knowledge of flight periods and habitat depend on observations at various stages at various dates. Even after a species has been recorded from a particular site, continuing observations from that site are valuable in documenting fluctuations and changes and therefore may contribute a great deal to our knowledge of the biology of butterflies. Such monitoring is very important with respect to rare species and their habitats. If a species is shown to be declining, it may be admitted to a risk category by provincial and federal governments and then the program, funding and planning necessary for retrieval from the risk category may be brought to bear.

The larger and more widespread the number of records, the more reliable the trend data. A few miscellaneous observations at a site where it has already been reported may seem without value, but in concert with many other observations they are a database that can be analyzed to produce new information some of which may be beyond present imagination. Although observations of rare species and indicator species are most important, all observations have a potential value.

Recording observations is not a major chore. Since an increasing number of people observe butterflies while doing other biology work, or in recreation, they can easily contribute to science and conservation by submitting at least some observations to a central database where they will not be lost, but rather increase in value as part of a body of information that can be analyzed and queried.

The annual summary database produced by TEA has this general purpose, i.e. to make observations valuable, useful and accessible for science and conservation, but nor are we ruling out recreation, if for example someone wants to see or photograph a particular species at its nearest location.