Saturday, September 24, 2022

Time has come for the protection of Monarch Butterflies

Another year has passed for me, and only one more for the “Big 80,” but things are looking good on this end. For others on this side of the globe, things aren’t looking so good this morning [Sept. 20]. Hurricane Fiona has clobbered Puerto Rico with over thirty inches of rain and strong winds that have again devastated their power grid five years to the day when they were hit by Hurricane Maria. They had just about recovered from that one and everything got laid flat again. The hurricane heading north hit the Dominican Republic and will end up in the Canada Maritimes. This will also push high tides all along the east coast while going north.

Out on the west coast of Alaska, remnants of Typhoon Merbok brought high winds and flooding from the Bering Sea to several cities including Nome and Golovin. The 1,000-mile wide storm front caused the worst coastal flooding seen in over fifty years. Officials said it would take over fourteen hours for most of this water to recede. The tail of this storm went into northern California bringing up to three inches of rain to coastal areas of Sonoma County and a bit less as the rains moved southward to the San Francisco area. These storms were forecast to continue on- and-off through Monday [Sept. 26.]

 

In the Sierra Nevada foothills northeast of the state capitol of Sacramento, fire crews have been fighting what has become the largest fire in the state this year. While the rain is needed, the winds were a concern for crews battling the Mosquito Fire, which was only 21% contained as of Saturday morning [Sept. 17]. “The winds will definitely cause erratic fire behavior” that could ignite new hotspots despite the welcome moisture, said Cal Fire Spokesman Scott McKean in a recent AP News article. “The rain is not going to put out the fire, but it will help.”

 

I hope you have noticed that the leaves are changing, and they may even peak around here in the next week (if the rain doesn’t knock them all to the ground.) We got over two inches of rain here on Monday afternoon [Sept. 19] in less than an hour, and it was gushing out the outlet of the pond that night. My intermittent stream, which hasn’t been flowing since spring, was sure flowing last night. A young bull moose was killed on State Route 28 east of Raquette Lake last week. All I got was a picture of the dead moose beside the road, and I heard it was hit by a tractor trailer, which lost the radiator. I saw some big moose tracks by the Rockdam Trail in the Moose River Area this week, as I was checking out the trail for the hike there on Saturday morning, Sept. 24, for the Moose Festival.

Tagged Monarch Butterfly. Photo by Wyatt Beckingham-Paul Smith’s.

 

While going to Big Moose on Saturday [September 17],  I saw that the Herkimer County Highway Department had started to mow the roadsides as far as Covewood Lodge. I knew that several Monarch butterfly caterpillars had been chopped up in their mowing of the patches of milkweeds along the shoulder of the highway. There is all this talk of protecting an endangered species (which the Monarch Butterfly was declared this spring,) and yet the county can chop up a few hundred…and nothing said. I went ahead of where they stopped mowing and picked over forty from the milkweeds along the highway, so they wouldn’t get mowed down this week. I’m raising them in a butterfly cage at the house.

 

They had already mowed along South Shore Road where there were hundreds of Monarchs, many still growing as caterpillars and many which had already gone into chrysalis, but had not become adults yet. Two years ago, I got ahead of the mowers on South Shore Road and picked over two hundred Monarch caterpillars, and raised and tagged them for release. Being declared an endangered species, I thought they would be protected, they would get out naturally, and the county could mow after they had left, but not so!

 

Up at Paul Smith’s VIC, they run a butterfly house where they raise and tag Monarch Butterflies. One that they tagged last year was found dead in the wintering area in Mexico. None of the over four hundred butterflies that I tagged have ever been found or reported.

 

The Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation is having their fall get together at the Paul Smith’s VIC, but that’s another story. See ya.

 

Photo at top: Female Monarch Butterfly. Photo by Tom Beckingham.

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Gary lives with his wife, Karen, at Eight Acre Wood in Inlet where he was the Forest Ranger for 35 years, working in the Moose River Wild Forest Recreation Area and West Canada Lakes Wilderness Area. Now retired, Gary works summers for the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, observing, catching and banding loons. The author of a column Daybreak to Twilight in local papers from 1986 to 2019, he now writes his Outdoor Adventures a weekly blog. In 2008, Gary coauthored a book with John M.C. “Mike” Peterson, "Adirondack Birding- 60 Great Places to Find Birds."




13 Responses

  1. Boreas says:

    Gary,

    I started tagging late this year just with caterpillars from my little milkweed plot. Managed to raise and tag 9 with no mortality. Next year I hope to get my tags sooner! But I think I can only tag what I raise. I don’t think I am quick enough to catch adults in order to tag them!

    As far as mowing, I suspect some people don’t know that the eggs and caterpillars are also Monarchs – or even worse, don’t care. Much of my area around Keeseville has yet to get a second mowing this year. I don’t know if that is fund-related, or intentional to protect milkweed. My favorite roadside treat are huge, bushy asters! Seems to be a good crop of them this year.

  2. Mary Lou L Giuliano says:

    Such a heartbreak. Have the powers that be at the county level been asked to delay the mowing? The highway workers are going to do what they’re told to do, probably not questioning at all. Sounds like this needs to be brought to a public meeting and certainly before next summer!

  3. nathan says:

    honestly no one at the county even thought about what they were mowing, they were just mowing road. I find way worse of how every where i go i see the brown along the roads where they just spray herbicide. killing everything along the roads and right over wet areas and streams. there needs to be a complete ban on herbicide spraying.
    I found more monarchs this year chewing on my milkweed patchs and flying by, but sadly i have noticed a huge drop in swallowtail butterflies, i only saw a few this whole summer, i saw only one hummingbird moth in my wildflower patchs.
    Over all i only really saw some sulfers and monarchs. while basically seeing no other butterflies at all.
    long gone are the days of looking over a meadow and seeing dozens of butterflies and species. i used to catch as a kid and look up in my butterfly book and mark date and place. i had over 50 different species of butterflies as a kid, now i look out over meadow and see maybe 3 butterflies and 5 species and now it seems 2 are left mainly.

  4. Bibi Wein says:

    Is there any way to stop this unnecessary mowing and destruction of monarchs and milkweed, to say nothing of the loss of blackberries, and numerous species of wild plants that are habitat for other pollinators? Gary, I would love to see a piece from you here, with information on what concerned citizens can do.
    Many thanks for your fabulous reporting.

  5. Boreas says:

    Information and tools for roadside/transportation managers:

    https://monarchjointventure.org/mjvprograms/science/roadsidehabitat

  6. Charlie Stehlin says:

    nathan says: “every where i go i see the brown along the roads where they just spray herbicide. killing everything along the roads and right over wet areas and streams.”

    > That’s what they do Nathan! Down here in the Capital region, and many places where i’ve been in New York…..they spray along, or under the guardrails, around signposts. It’s about saving money I assume, or time or both. It’s also easier to spray than it is to cut the old-fashioned way…with mowers, or sickles before them. It’s a crying shame and I gotta say….New York is a major disappointment regards this matter and others. They just don’t care! It didn’t used to be this way.

    “there needs to be a complete ban on herbicide spraying.”

    > I’d say tell that to Rachel Carson, but you’re 60 years too late on that one. That’s how long ago she tried to stop the spread of toxins into our environment. They didn’t care then they don’t care now! ‘They’ as in those who have the power to make change…..but won’t!

    “sadly i have noticed a huge drop in swallowtail butterflies, I only saw a few this whole summer.”

    > Monarchs are soooo way down in number, as are cabbage butterflies, swallowtails, you name it! We just don’t care enough nathan! It’s about money and keeping the economy going. Screw every ‘thing’ else! This is nothing new and it was very much expected by many of us who have been shouting out and raising the alarm for decades now! Don’t expect them to change anything now. I’m assuming the monarch will be extinct within the next few years if not sooner. And then….business as usual, and we can expect to see species dropping off like autumn leaves from fall trees! It is very depressing to me and it’s a wonder I keep going as sensitive as I am to this and many other issues which in the end game will affect everyone of us, rich and poor alike; but who really cares anyway as there is so much more on our plates other than a puny butterfly! If only we could start building up ‘conscience’ in the human race, especially in our political leaders, and especially those on the ‘right’ who seemingly will never get past guns, God, oil & self…..

  7. Charlie Stehlin says:

    “None of the over four hundred butterflies that I tagged have ever been found or reported.”

    It don’t take much imagination to figure what could have happened to them Gary! There’s less and less fields with flowers for them to go to for one! For two…..butterflies cannot survive on concrete and shopping centers alone.

  8. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Bibi Wein says: “Is there any way to stop this unnecessary mowing and destruction of monarchs and milkweed?”

    Conscience Bibi! A moral compass! Empathy! An end to campaign financing in our elections! A reduction in the amount of power money has on the human psyche!

  9. Charlie Stehlin says:

    Natham says: “i would think it would actually be illegal to destroy areas harboring endangered species.”

    It was my understanding, when I lived in Florida, that the gopher tortoise was a protected species in that state. This may have been so, but on paper only as I saw what they did to many of those gopher tortoises. They buried them alive, and surely by the ten of thousands. I knew of many gopher tortoise havens which became housing developments, and other. I saw with my own eyes how much the State of Florida cared about this species. They bulldozed them over without a care in the world, buried them alive in their underground caverns so that they suffocated, died slow agonizing deaths. Many of them were hit by cars which would be a better way to go in my book. Florida is a microcosm (to a large extent) of the whole. Is why monarch butterflies, and other species, are on their way out!

  10. bibi wein says:

    Boreas, a belated thank you for all the great references. I didn’t get to them until I could get to a working printer. You’ve reawakened the dormant activist in me.
    Cheers!

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