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Found a dead butterfly? Mail it to the U.S. Geological Survey. Scientists are establishing a Lepidoptera Research Collection to help identify contaminants and environmental factors that could be causing a decline in insect populations, according to a recent USGS media release.

Residents in six states — Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas — are being asked to participate by sending deceased butterflies, moths, and skippers to the USGS. The deadline is Nov. 1, 2023.

“There are some questions that can’t effectively be answered without help from a lot of people. It’s what makes citizen-science so special and valuable,” said Julie Dietze, USGS scientist-in-charge of the effort, in the media release. “Collections like this one are important because they have the potential to provide scientists now, and 20 years from now, access to specimens. Without the specimens, it will be far more difficult to answer questions related to contaminants and environmental health.” 

The citizen-science pilot program began in April 2023 and could continue into 2024, based on the response and the number of specimens already received. 

According to the release, pilot study states were selected based on at least one of three factors: 

The USGS Environmental Organic Chemistry unit in Kansas will specifically be looking at the occurrence of antibiotics, pesticides, hormones, and mycotoxins in Lepidoptera, the release said.

Collection requirements:

  • Insects must already be dead and may not be collected alive.
  • Insects must be larger than 2 inches.
  • The USGS does not collect specimens that are protected under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Endangered Species Act or listed as threatened or endangered under state law. (Within the six states, only the Mitchell’s satyr butterfly, found in Alabama, is currently a protected species.)

Collection instructions:

  • Put dead butterflies, moths, and/or skippers in a resealable plastic bag. (You may combine species or send damaged/not fully intact specimens.)
  • Freeze the insects to preserve them if you’re not shipping them within three days.
  • Place plastic bags in a sealed envelope and address to:

1217 Biltmore Drive
Lawrence, KS 66049

You do not have to include a return address.

For more information about the U.S. Geological Survey, visit

1 thought on “USGS studying dead butterflies and moths; you can mail them in

  1. I just mailed in a Sphinx moth this morning❗️So happy I could contribute to this study❗️

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