Red admiral butterfly, Vanessa atalanta. Image credit Andrew Bladon

Butterfly Challenge 2021

Photograph of a red admiral butterfly
Red Admiral Butterfly (c) Matt Lowe

Recording butterflies is a great way to engage with wildlife and what’s more, it can help us monitor the health of the environment. Butterflies are sensitive to change, so recording where we see them and what they are doing can help us keep track of the natural world.

Please note that our Butterfly Challenge 2021 competition has now ended, but you can still record and submit your sightings via iRecord following the video and instructions below:

You can now see the records submitted to our Butterfly Challenge 2021 on iRecord by clicking the button below:

Butterfly Challenge photo competition

Photograph of a peacock butterfly
(c) Trasroid

All photographs submitted to our Butterfly Challenge via the form will be entered into a wildlife photo competition, judged by volunteers and staff at the Museum of Zoology, to win a mini wildlife explorer kit. The competition closes at midnight on Sunday 5 September. Judging will then take place and the winner will be contacted by the Museum. (For terms and conditions, scroll to the bottom of the page).

To enter our photo competition without using the form, please email umzc@zoo.cam.ac.uk. Records uploaded directly to iRecord will not be entered into the competition.

How to record a butterfly sighting using Google Forms

Take a picture of any butterfly that you see and submit it using the Google Form via the button below:

Here’s a step-by-step guide for how to use the Google Form:

  1. Click the add file button to browse your files and find the image that you want to upload.
  2. There is then space on the form to note down other details, such as the name of the butterfly species, where you saw it and what it was doing.
  3. Where the form asks ‘What species of butterfly have you photographed? please write your best guess.

If you do not know the species that is not a problem and you can simply write ‘butterfly’ instead. Alternatively, if you would like some help identifying a butterfly, please follow the link on the form to Butterfly Conservation’s identify a butterfly guide:
https://butterfly-conservation.org/butterflies/identify-a-butterfly

If you are unsure about an identification, please tick the ‘unsure’ box on the form. This is not a problem and lets us know to take a look.

  1. For the question ‘Where did you see the butterfly?’

When recording the location, try to be as specific as possible. For example, you might write: ‘East corner of Parker’s Piece, Cambridge, under trees’ or ‘front garden on Mill Road, Cambridge’.
Using Google Maps can be a helpful tool for narrowing the location down (https://www.google.com/maps). Being specific will help us upload the butterfly sightings onto a map using the wildlife recording website iRecord. This will allow you to see where the different species have been spotted, once the butterfly challenge ends.

  1. The next question asks ‘What was the butterfly doing?’ and provides multiple choice answers for you. Simply select the behaviour you saw the butterfly doing. Do not worry if your picture does not show it doing the behaviour you select. 
  2. If you would like your butterfly sighting to be included in the Zoology Live 2021 Butterfly Challenge please add your name and email address in the last two sections of the form.

How to record using iRecord Butterflies App:

Screenshot of iRecord butterflies app on iPhone

If you get hooked or do not wish to use the Google form, you can have a go with the iRecord Butterflies App. It makes it easy to upload recordings that directly feed into national recording programmes so that we can keep track of how butterfly populations are doing. It also has a brilliant identification guide that helps you name the species that are likely to be flying in your area.

Be sure to enter “Zoology Live 2021” in the comment box when you upload on the app to be included in our Butterfly Challenge results.

For more information on the iRecord Butterflies App please visit:
https://butterfly-conservation.org/our-work/recording-and-monitoring/irecord-butterflies

For more information on iRecord in general, how to create an account, and how to use it to record all sorts of wildlife in addition to butterflies, see our guide from ZoologyLive 2020: How to Observe Wildlife iRecord

This guide was originally made for Zoology Live 2020 but can be followed to sign up to any iRecord event of your choice, including our 2021 event: “Zoology Live 2021”.


The Museum will only use any personal data provided to inform you if you have been successful in the photo competition. They will not be shared with anyone else. For more details about how we handle your personal information and your rights under data protection legislation please see the University’s Information Compliance pages: https://www.information-compliance.admin.cam.ac.uk/

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