The Monarch butterfly Eastern migration will survive the current crisis and make a come-back, although probably never again to the population levels seen in the 1990s, predicted noted Monarch scientist Dr. Orley “Chip” Taylor in a lecture at The Wild Center Friday night.
Adirondack residents still turning over milkweed leaves this season in search of as glimpse of a Monarch caterpillar or larvae will probably be disappointed, Dr. Taylor said, because the Monarchs arrived at this northern latitude too late and in too few numbers to produce a generation here this year.
Dr. Taylor’s lecture to an audience of nearly 100 Friday night at The Wild Center in a visit sponsored by AdkAction.org as part of its butterfly and milkweed conservation initiative this year. Taylor is a University of Kansas professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and founder of Monarch Watch.
The most important thing that Americans can do to help the marvel of the Eastern Monarch migration endure is to plant Monarch Waystions — butterfly gardens which contain milkweeds, the only plant on which Monarchs reproduce, and flowers to provide nectar, their food source. These gardens are particularly crucial in Texas, where Monarchs return after wintering in Mexico, but important by the thousands along the entire migratory routes.
In a late-night chat over strawberry-rhubarb pie after the lecture, Dr. Taylor shared snippets of his life as an insect ecologist, including years studying the fierce African bee.
It was easy to picture a young Harrison Ford playing Chip. He has not led the quaint, academic life of the stereotypical entomologist. In his early career, he traced the African bee, often referred to as “killer bees,” from Brazil (where they had been introduced) back to their home in South Africa. He then tracked them as they made their way north through South America, Central America, into Texas and beyond. The killer bees are now just south of the Kansas border, nearing Lawrence where he is a professor at the University of Kansas.
He acted as a consultant for a film crew who wanted footage of the killer bees, which had by then crossed the Panama Canal.
Chip located an apiary in an isolated location. The film crew wanted video of the bees pissed-off. Chip says it does not take much to rile them up, which he did. The cameraman squatted and aimed his camera just inches from the nest exit, where the bees came at his lens like pellets from a gun. He was wearing protective gear, including a veil, but had forgotten to put Band-Aids on his ears. The bees stuck him three times on the ear. The cameraman stood up, then dropped like a felled tree. Crew members standing nearby caught him as he fell. Chip yelled, “Get the camera.”
Chip instructed the film crew to get the cameraman into a van, clear him of bees and revive him. Chip stayed behind with the aroused bees to guard the estimated $100,000 worth of equipment strewn on the ground. He turned his head and the wind caught his veil. The bees shot venom directly into one of his eyes. A half hour later the van returned with the cameraman, who had survived the attack. Another boring day in the life of an insect scientist.
To the relief of others finishing off the pie, Chip said the winter temperatures are too cold in the Adirondacks for killer bees to survive here.