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Archive for Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fewer butterflies this year at Monarch Watch’s tagging event

September 15, 2012

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Annika Syverson, 11, left, and Adi Spears, 11, both of Lawrence, look over a net full of butterflies they helped tag at the Baker Wetlands on Saturday as part of the Monarch Watch tagging event.

Annika Syverson, 11, left, and Adi Spears, 11, both of Lawrence, look over a net full of butterflies they helped tag at the Baker Wetlands on Saturday as part of the Monarch Watch tagging event.

A small tag on a monarch butterfly will help track the butterfly’s migration through the United States and into Mexico for winter. The Monarch Watch’s tagging event saw fewer monarchs this year.

A small tag on a monarch butterfly will help track the butterfly’s migration through the United States and into Mexico for winter. The Monarch Watch’s tagging event saw fewer monarchs this year.

At the annual Monarch Watch tagging event Saturday morning, there was a lot of watching — but not so many monarchs.

This summer’s drought meant a much smaller population of the butterflies, and cloudy conditions early in the day weren’t ideal for them — they have to warm their bodies and are more active on sunny days, said Chip Taylor, director of the Kansas University-based Monarch Watch conservation group.

But Elijah Paden, 8, and Elliot Paden, 5, were determined.

“It’d just be fun if we got to catch one,” Elijah said of the orange-and-black butterflies, his mesh net flailing wildly.

Monarch Watch organizes the tagging at the Baker Wetlands to track migration through the United States and into Mexico for the winter. This is the group’s 21st year of tagging, and it’s been inviting the public to take part as an education tool and as “nice way to get a walk in the morning,” as dad John Paden put it.

Taylor said this year’s was the smallest he’d seen the monarch population in northeast Kansas, though he said he’d heard reports that the normally lesser northeast coast population was doing well. Usually the bulk of the migrating monarchs come from Canada or the northern states like Minnesota. But consistently dry conditions led to fewer flowering plants and milkweed, which the butterflies need to survive.

Maddy Beilfuss and JoAnn Maloney hadn’t tagged any after an hour in, at about 8:30 a.m. They were getting antsy — they needed to tag and record the information for five butterflies for a Blue Valley Northwest High School project.

They did admit they were learning, at least, and maybe that’s the most important part.

“I didn’t know about their migration — that they come from the north and to Mexico,” Beilfuss said. “If all else fails, we tagged one at school.”

Comments

riverdrifter 2 years ago

Should've sent the KU football team out there. Result might have been better.

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50YearResident 2 years ago

How many of these rough handled butterflys survive to reach their destination? Because of much lower numbers of butterflys this year, it would be better to suspend the tagging until they recover, if they ever do.

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Tomato 2 years ago

That's not true. Monarch butterflies tagged in Lawrence show up in Mexico at the breeding range. Migrating monarchs are not reproductive, they only migrate and they all head toward Mexico (the purpose of tagging is to see how many make it). After they overwinter in Mexico, then they reproduce. Monarchs that are already reproductive do not migrate and stay regional to breed (their young may or may not migrate, depending on when they are born).

Migratory monarchs live longer than non-migratory monarchs. They basically start migrating as soon as they come out of chrysalis, spend their entire life migrating (except for a period of overwintering in Mexico). Monarchs go through multiple generations a year, but only the final generation migrates.

Anyway, the Monarch Watch website has a lot of interesting information about monarchs and their migration.

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Tomato 2 years ago

I wasn't able to find any estimates of how many butterflies die or are damaged while being tagged. But bear in mind that the percentage of butterflies tagged is a tiny percentage of the total butterfly population. Only about 1-2% of tags are ever recovered. I wasn't able to find any real hard date on how many migrate (many millions, possibly as many as 100 million) - their migration seems to be mostly measured in hectares once it gets to Mexico. About 100k are tagged in total (in all of North America).

The primary threat to monarchs is logging in their breeding range in Mexico. Their breeding range shrinks every year because of habitat destruction. The secondary threat (and the one we have the most control over here in the USA) is lack of milkweed due to herbicides.

So even if 7 year olds kill every monarch they catch, the total data is worthwhile because it's used to support the conservation methods that really make the difference.

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Paul Decelles 2 years ago

Usually I get 5-10 Monarch larvae on my milkweed plants. This summer-none.

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Tomato 2 years ago

Me too. Every year I end up adding more because it feels like my milkweed doesn't keep up with demand. This year I didn't see a single caterpillar. One or two monarch butterflies. Most years, I can go out with my camera on any given day and take photos of monarchs.

I hope they'll be back next year.

That said, I haven't had as many swallowtails this year either. Usually they come along and decimate my parsley, dill and carrots. I actually had a successful carrot crop this year, for the first time ever. They came around, but stuck with parsley and never so many that I couldn't find parsley for myself.

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verity 2 years ago

Every little bit we can do helps. I have several butterfly bushes which are very drought tolerant and easy to grow---besides being attractive in the yard. I've planted goldenrod, butterfly milkweed, fall phlox, sedums and other native and adaptable plants, which are also drought tolerant and feed butterflies. These plants don't need spraying or fertilizer and rarely water. I've had fewer butterflies this summer and fall than last year, but still a number of them.

I plant parsley, rue and fennel for the black swallowtails. They lay eggs on plants from the carrot family and the caterpillars are beautiful and fun to watch as they grow. In past years I've had more of them than of the monarchs. I prefer their black and blue coloring. I've also had quite a few bees---they seem to particularly like hollyhocks, although they seem to feed on most any flower.

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Paul Decelles 1 year, 11 months ago

I have fennel for the swallow tails. This year I added a couple of rue plants for them but I never saw them on it-just my fennel which is in the same area of the garden. Do they feed on your rue?

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gr 2 years ago

I wonder if any mutations were observed due to the radiation spewing from the Fukushima reactors? Maybe with the distance, it'll take a few more years than the pale grass blue butterflies close by? Good thing we haven't had much rain this year!

http://enenews.com/time-magazine-a-positive-way-to-spin-mutant-butterflies-found-near-fukushima

http://enenews.com/japan-times-study-finds-abnormalities-half-offspring-butterflies-collected-2011-unusually-small-wings-premature-deaths-fallout-caused-physiological-genetic-damage

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whuffman8 1 year, 11 months ago

Well, you all should come to Jacksonville, FL. We are inundated with butterflies. It is bizarre!

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