Sitting in the shade of an outdoor shelter Saturday, Karen Arvin watched her young son, Severin, chase butterflies at Evonik Industries' Habitat Recreation Area in Lafayette.
"We homeschool, so it's nice to get them involved in this," said Arvin, of Indianapolis.
"It's educational and it's fun."
Arvin and members of her family -- 11 total -- were among the about 60 who showed up Saturday for the annual Butterfly Encounter, held by Purdue University's Department of Entomology and sponsored by Evonik.
For two hours, participants were sent in search of species such as monarchs, red admirals, giant swallowtails and others, said Tom Turpin, a Purdue professor of entomology. Hunters tabulated what they saw and reported back afterward.
Participants encountered a total of 808 butterflies, reported Purdue associate professor Jon Neal. That's the highest number since 2007, when participants found 818.
The professors attributed the high number of butterflies to factors such as the recent warm weather.
Although not a completely scientific count, the butterfly event generates annual data that can be used to help track the diversity of butterflies found in the recreation area, Neal and Turpin said.
The event also is a way to educate residents, many of whom are interested in butterflies, about the different species found locally, they said.
Rural Flora resident Lee Ann Mann came to the event with her sister-in-law and her eight-year-old son, Connor, who's been catching butterflies since he was three.
"I've been fascinated by the beauty" of butterflies, Connor said as he hunted down one of the fluttering creatures with his net.
"I think they're the most beautiful thing on the earth."
The butterfly count was preceded by an Evonik-sponsored picnic lunch and a workshop that helped participants learn how to take pictures of butterflies and other insects.
Twelve-year-old Scarlett Arvin, Karen Arvin's daughter, said the workshop was one of her favorite parts of the event.
"They're so pretty, so I liked learning more about how to take pictures of them," Arvin said. "It's a lot of fun."