End Season Monarch Update

Yesterday, my husband found a Monarch butterfly flailing around on the rain soaked cement of our driveway. It was a cool, wet morning with a temperature in the mid-50’s. After several failed attempts by him to capture the monarch, I was able to gently snatch it up and bring it inside to the container in which I raised monarchs this summer.

The monarch, a male, seemed agitated and took a while to stop shaking. But, after a couple of hours, it looked like any other monarch butterfly I had raised over the last 15 years. The temperature had warmed to 63 degrees by lunchtime, so I tagged him and let him go. He immediately flew away!

This was the first butterfly I’ve “rescued” but the 77th I released this year.  It was only the second “wild” monarch I ever caught and tagged.

The following are some more highlights from raising monarchs this year are the following:

  • 45 tagged and released
    • 3 tagged with school children at North Woods International School
    • 2 tagged with children of a friend
  • 32 additional butterflies raised and released from my own yard’s butterfly habitat
    • total of 77 monarch butterflies raised and/or caught and released this year
  • School Children taught about monarch conservation & the monarch life cycle – 100
    • including two different school districts and a friend’s children
  • Community Members taught about monarch conservation – 120 (conservative estimate)
    • Presenter on Monarchs, Milkweed, and the Monarch Highway at the Spring into Gardening Conference hosted by the Bluff Country Master Gardeners.
    • Presenter to two local Lions Club groups – April and September
    • Presenter to Adult Residence Facility in my community
  • First video and photos of newly hatched Monarch larva
  • First experience with a Listserv (on Monarch Butterflies)
  • First year managing my second monarch way station at a school based habitat
  • First time being stopped at another community event (an art fair) to answer questions on milkweed and raising monarchs
  • Second time providing charitable assistance to Monarch Joint Venture for educational materials.

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All in all this was a great year for monarch butterflies, some sources report that it might be the best year in the last 25 for the population numbers noted during breeding season. Migration is underway.  Weekly migration news can be found on the Journey North Website through November 15th. Let’s hope the overwintering numbers are high and reflect the population numbers of the breeding season.

Monarchs
Fall 2018. Male Monarch on Hydrangea in Wisconsin

This fall there was controversy about statements released by Monarch Joint Venture and the Xerces society about raising monarchs. I shared some of my thoughts on my post about a bandwagon effect in mid-September.  Without raising my dander yet again on this subject, I have come to a conclusion about my own efforts to conserve the iconic Monarch Butterfly species.

  1. I have done this for a long time (15 years). My own efforts have been conservative in the numbers I have raised each year. This year represented the most butterflies I have ever raised. I will probably not ever raise more than I did this year, but I will continue.
  2. There is a time to stop. One of the smartest things I read from other’s weighing in on the listserv about raising monarchs were these comments: a) if your cage/container looks crowded, it probably is – you have collected too many eggs/caterpillars, b) there is a time to stop. Stop harvesting caterpillars as your milkweed supply diminishes and has you have less and less room to raise the monarchs in a healthy, clean environment. I have thought about crowding. I have been keeping an eye on my containers for the last few years. Crowding is not a healthy environment for raising any living organism. Monarchs are no different. In addition, I did stop collection of caterpillars and eggs this year when my milkweed was becoming dry and sparse as well as if I felt I could not provide enough space.
  3. Large butterfly “farms”  or raising monarchs just to brag about it on social media (of which there has been a multitude of people doing) must be stopped. But, that means people must stop giving attention to those who are doing this. That makes it a difficult trend to reign in, for sure.
  4. And finally, most importantly, the biggest effort to save monarchs has to be in habitat restoration, conservation, and initiation. Humans have destroyed the habitat of many pollinators, not just the monarch butterfly. But, because of the unique relationship monarchs have with the milkweed plant, we must provide milkweed by sowing the seeds in our gardens at home and in our communities. Perhaps, this is what really affected the numbers this year. People (at least the people I’ve met) are interested in planting milkweed and creating (initiating) habitat.  This is THE most important part of monarch conservation. If you plant it (milkweed), they (monarchs) will come.

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As I finish my degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Education, I realize that I am a conservationist at heart. But, I truly believe in sharing my love for our earth, the monarchs, and other species that make our planet such a wonderful place to live. Knowledge is power, and above all, that is what I will continue to share.

If you are local and wish for me to speak on the subject of monarchs and milkweed, please contact me. Thank you!

 

 

 

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