On a warm sunny day in late September the Monarch butterflies at the Paul Smith’s College Visitors Interpretive Center (VIC) readied for their journey to Mexico. In our butterfly house we tag monarchs so they can be tracked on their journey south. They are tagged with small stickers and given individual numbers. This year one very special Monarch from our butterfly house, number AAMZ679, was found in El Rosario, Mexico! This means this Monarch butterfly traveled 3,000 miles from the Butterfly House to reach El Rosario!
Posts Tagged ‘monarch butterflies’
The size of the overwintering population of Eastern monarch butterflies was just released on Feb 25, and the number shows yet another decline (to a total of 2.1 hectares/ 5.2 acres; details are shown in the figure below). What does this mean for the Adirondacks this coming summer? Monarchs were abundant in the Adirondack region in 2018, just as they had been decades ago, but 2021 will be a year of many fewer, just as it was in 2020 and most recent years.
Monarchs are in decline because of multiple threats throughout their life cycle: the loss of milkweed because of industrialized agriculture in their main midwestern breeding area; logging of the overwintering forests in Mexico; drought and loss of nectar sources due to climate change; and increasing severity of killing storms.
Recently the US Fish & Wildlife service declared monarchs to be “warranted but precluded” for listing under the Endangered Species Act. That decision is well explained at: https://monarchjointventure.org/blog/faqs-endangered-species-act-listing-decision-for-monarch-butterflies. It means that the federal government will take no actions for the time being to reverse this decline even though the current figure of 2.1 hectares is much below the estimated number of 6 hectares required to sustain monarch migration.
Many are familiar with the monarch butterfly, but did you know these important pollinators are in trouble? Over the past 20 years, the number of monarchs in North America has declined by over 90 percent! Loss of breeding and overwintering habitat, increased pesticide use, and climate change are some of the risks monarchs face. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced that listing the monarch as an endangered or threatened species was “warranted but precluded,” meaning there are other species in greater trouble that need to be listed first.
Every fall, millions of monarchs across the northeast begin a journey to their wintering grounds in Mexico—a migration of up to 3,000 miles! However, don’t expect to see the same butterflies return to your backyard next year. You’re more likely to see their great-grandchildren or great-great-grandchildren. Every year, there are four generations of monarchs. When the fall migrants leave the wintering areas and head north in the spring, they will stop and breed as soon as they reach areas with milkweed—the only plant the monarch caterpillar eats—long before reaching the Northeast. The next two generations will continue to move north as the monarchs settle into their summer range. The fourth generation becomes the new fall migrants, starting the cycle over again. » Continue Reading.
Monarch butterflies are an iconic species, easily recognized by their vibrant orange and black wings speckled with white dots and can be seen feeding in fields and open areas here in the Adirondacks.
Most people have seen the small, flying murals called butterflies. Nature’s living pieces of art that remain an endless show of life and beauty drawn upon wings of flight. The carrier of this splendor, a delicate butterfly.
A butterfly has four wings – two on each side. They are broken into two forewings and two hindwings. The wings are attached to the second and third thoracic segments. When a butterfly is in flight, the wings move up and down in a figure-eight pattern.
Butterfly wings are made up of two chitinous layers. Each wing is covered by thousands of colorful scales and hairs. These wing scales are tiny overlapping pieces of chitin on a butterfly wing only seen in detail under a microscope. They are attached at the body wall and are modified, plate-like setae or hairs.
Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) begin their annual fall migration in mid-August. These butterflies are the great-great-grandchildren of the monarchs that migrated to Mexico last fall.
You can help monarchs by providing food (nectar) and keeping those areas protected:
- Turn a portion of your lawn into a wildflower meadow—plant milkweed or other native wildflowers.
- Delay mowing areas with milkweed until later in the fall.
- Avoid using herbicides—they kill all life-stages of monarchs (egg, caterpillar, cocoon, and adult).
- Report sightings of adults online. View a map of the sightings so far this year.
Don’t know when their migration peaks in your area? Check out this migration chart.
Photo by Sandy Van Vranken.
Pollinators are vital to creating and maintaining the habitats and ecosystems many animals rely on for food and shelter.
Over half of the diets of fats and oils come from crops pollinated worldwide by pollinators alone and facilitate the reproduction in 90 percent of the world’s flowering plants. Pollinators are needed in the production of over 130 different human food crops and are responsible for 1 out of every 3 bites of food we eat and beverages we drink.
A world without pollinators would be devastating. As nature lovers and educators, the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge (in Wilmington) and SkyLyfeADK are collaborating to implement an extensive pollinator project named Operation Pollinator Rescue.
If you’ve noticed a lot of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) lately, you’re not alone. From my own observations and from what people have been telling me, this summer appears to have been a very successful one for them; at least in this part of the northeast.
Monarchs have four life stages; egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa, and adult (butterfly). The caterpillars feed only on milkweed leaves and seed pods. And, for this reason, adult Monarch females lay their eggs only on milkweed. In fact, the search for milkweed is the sole reason for monarch migration; perhaps the most remarkable migration in nature. » Continue Reading.
The monarch butterfly may be the most recognized butterfly in the world. With the exception of the Polar Regions, the medium-size butterflies can be found on every continent on Earth. Their spectacular migration in eastern North America, from breeding locations in Canada and the United States to overwintering sites in Mexico, is nothing short of a miracle and has been the subject of decades of study.
Monarchs have four life stages; egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa, and adult (butterfly). The search for milkweed, the only food that monarch larvae eat, is the sole reason for the annual monarch migration. » Continue Reading.
AdkAction has announced a free lecture, “Monarchs in a Changing World,” by Dr. Karen Oberhauser on Friday, August 10 at 6 pm in the Flammer Theater at The Wild Center.
Monarchs, like many other organisms, are facing the challenges of a rapidly changing climate. Their capacity to cope with these changes remains uncertain. Climate also affects monarchs indirectly, by altering the habitats and plant species on which they depend, or the distribution and abundance of their predators and parasites. Dr. Oberhauser will explain her work using climate models to understand how these direct and indirect inputs might affect monarch in the future. » Continue Reading.
Earlier this summer, my daughter persuaded me to bring home a monarch egg. I had misgivings. This wasn’t my first butterfly rodeo, and previous experience was discouraging. Two summers past, a friend gave us several black swallowtail caterpillars. One lived to adulthood, but all the siblings wasted away, taking on the form of burnt bacon gristle.
On the plus side, this time we’d be starting with an egg, and a new one at that. We had found it minutes after watching the mother butterfly flutter down into a milkweed patch. » Continue Reading.
The journey of the monarch butterfly from the northeastern United States to the tropical forests in Mexico every fall is considered a magical one. How could such a lightweight, delicate looking insect survive a journey of more than 3,000 miles?
The feat has drawn the admiration of naturalists and others, including Dan Jenkins, who lives on the shores of Upper Saranac Lake. Jenkins’s property is located on what, he says, is a monarch flyway between Upper Saranac Lake and Raquette River. Because of that, he consistently sees monarchs passing through his yard in the fall as the insects head south. » Continue Reading.
Last year I saw only one monarch butterfly and found only one monarch caterpillar at our house. This is after cultivating milkweed at numerous spots around my yard and planting three seasons of nectar plants. The only other monarchs my family was lucky enough to see were hatched by the Wild Center and at the Paul Smiths VIC Butterfly House as part of their programs to raise awareness regarding the perils of the monarch habitat.
Since milkweed is critically important to monarchs, both butterfly and caterpillars, we decided to widen our milkweed patch. Last fall we did a bit of seed sprinkling along the berm across the street from our house. I followed up with a few phone calls to our town supervisor and highway crew to let them know I could maintain the patch. It was important for me to communicate with as many people as possible. It was an encouraging conversation.
Now that the trees are finally starting to bud, my children and I are on the lookout for young milkweed shoots. We hope that this new patch will encourage a few more butterflies to make our street a monarch stopover.
Over the past 18 months, I have had the incredible opportunity of having Monarch butterfly experts Chip Taylor and Lincoln Brower as guests in my home here in the Adirondacks. We had hours to converse with each and ask questions to our heart’s content. We found both brilliant, charismatic experts in their field. Each came to lecture at The Wild Center, the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks, under the sponsorship of a small non-profit I helped found, AdkAction.org.
Of course, I am no scientist and no expert on this subject. But I find myself having to make a choice of whether to side with Lincoln or Chip on Lincoln’s recent quest to have Monarchs added to the threatened species list, which offers all its potential protections. » Continue Reading.