2) Status of the Population
3) Adopt-a-Classroom Donations
4) Tagging Data Sheets
5) 2002 Recoveries
6) Just in Time for the Holidays!
7) Bird Predation on Monarchs
8) Queens and Soldiers
9) Interstate Shipment of Butterflies
10) How to Unsubscribe from this Update
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2) Status of the Population - by Chip Taylor
Reports from the newspaper "La Voz de Michoacan" (link to article below) indicate monarchs began to arrive in the vicinity of the overwintering sites on the 28th of October. The monarchs are right on time, at least according to the models we have been working on for the initiation and pace of the migration. Even though some of the monarchs have reached the overwintering locations near Angangueo in Michoacan, others are still moving (as of November 6) along the coastal flyway in Texas.
La Voz de Michoacan 12 Nov issue (1.5MB PDF file, in Spanish)
Monarchs have two paths through Texas, a coastal route and a central pathway. The central path follows the old prairie boundary on a SW track through central Texas into the Edwards plateau west of San Antonio and then SW through the Uvalde area toward Eagle Pass and Del Rio on the border with Mexico. The majority of monarchs from eastern North America evidently enter Mexico between these two border cities. Most of the land along the border between Eagle Pass and Del Rio consists of a few large ranches and some of the ranch owners get in touch with us from time to time to report the masses of monarchs moving through their area. This year one of the ranchers reported that the butterflies were either low in number or the persistent rains and low clouds kept the butterflies dispersed.
The coastal flyway is less well known. Movement along this pathway is highly variable within and among years. The path is narrow, perhaps only a mile of two in width, which may explain why we know less about this flyway. To be aware of this pathway one has to be right on the coast at the right time. As the number of observers in Texas increases, due to the efforts of Mike Quinn and Harlen and Altus Aschen, we should be able to learn more about the movement of monarchs along this track. Although the reports of monarchs on this route sometimes indicate that thousands are present, the numbers do not approach those seen on the central path. This is but a small portion of the total population. Monarchs on this pathway probably originate in the northeast and move south until they encounter the Gulf Coast and then begin to follow the coastal edge toward the west. This is a longer route to Mexico and it may take the butterflies on this path 10-14 additional days to reach the Mexican border.
Last month I mentioned that I would make a reassessment of the population if the reports from Texas for the last two weeks of October indicated that the population was larger than I had anticipated. Unfortunately, even though good numbers of monarchs were seen during this period in a few locations (e.g., reports of 5,000 and 10-20 thousand at different sites), the masses (100s of thousands) of monarchs seen in previous years were absent. The rainy, cloudy, and cool weather in late October may have prevented large aggregations of monarchs from forming and limited the observers as well. Mike Quinn, Bob Pyle, and others visited Parque Ecologico Chipinque in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon on Monday, October 21st where they saw monarchs pouring through the mountains at rates of several 100 per minute. In the early 90's I had two occasions to see monarchs streaming along the north side of the mountains (heading SE) near Linares in Nuevo Leon - an impressive sight. These sightings were in the first two weeks of November and appeared to be the last of the "flow" through this region in the years I was there. In normal years this streaming can be seen periodically for several weeks.
Overall, nothing has happened to alter my perception that the population at the overwintering sites will be down this winter. I'm anticipating a population of about 3 hectares for all sites combined. The total could be lower than the all time low of 2.83 hectares recorded in 2000. At Cape May, Dick Walton and his associates record the number of monarchs encountered in what are known as Pollard transects three times a day for 8 weeks during the migration. The number of monarchs seen this year were remarkably similar (albeit about 10% higher) to those observed in 2000. The totals for 2002 (http://www.concord.org/~dick/mmp02.html) are the fourth lowest recorded in the eleven years this protocol has been followed.
3) Adopt-a-Classroom Donations
We want to thank all of you who have gathered schools supplies, books in Spanish and other materials for the schools in the vicinity of the monarch sanctuary in Mexico. In addition to several individual contributions we have received two large donations - 8 pallets of materials from Appleton North High School (Appleton, WI) and about 300 lbs. of materials from Crestwood Elementary School (Richmond, VA). Overall, we have more supplies to distribute to the schools in Mexico this year than the 4.5 tons of books and supplies delivered during our January 2002 Adopt-a-Classroom trip. Thank You!
Unfortunately, monetary contributions that help cover the costs of transporting the materials and other expenses (promotional flyers, storage, etc.) are way down this year. Approximately $3,000 has been contributed to the Adopt-a-Classroom Fund this year versus over $9,000 last year. The Adopt-a-Classroom program requires approximately $13,000 annually to maintain and a large part of these expenses are paid out of Monarch Watch's operating funds. Whether or not we will be able to cover these expenses this year is not yet known :-(
If you would like to make a tax-deductible contribution to the Adopt-a-Classroom Fund, please make checks payable to Monarch Fund and mail to:
University of Kansas
1200 Sunnyside Avenue
Lawrence, KS 66045
Please include "Adopt-a-Classroom" in the memo field or in a note. Thank you for your continued support!
4) Tagging Data Sheets
It's that time of year again. The tagging is finished and the data sheets are being returned in good numbers. If you have not yet returned your data sheets please do so. We need all the data sheets to coordinate the information on the recoveries. So far, there are 107 recoveries in the United States and once the data sheets are in and scanned, we will be able to inform both the tagger and the person who made the recovery of the specifics of their particular butterfly.
Please be sure to fill out your form completely - we need your name & address, if you received tags from anyone other than Monarch Watch, the tagging date, and the complete tag number. Don't forget: the tag number is the entire three letter & three number code!
5) 2002 Recoveries
Recoveries are already starting to pile up. We've had 107 domestic recoveries (recoveries in Canada & the U.S.) so far this year. This is quite a few more than we've had in recent years. The following is a list of domestic recoveries for the past four years. You can compare this year's numbers with numbers from the past, but you should keep in mind that we haven't received all of the 2002 recoveries yet.
Season - # of U.S. & Canadian Recoveries
2002 - 107
2001 - 51
2000 - 56
1999 - 62
1998 - 29
1997 - 146
6) Just in Time for the Holidays!
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About a year ago Monarch Watch unveiled our new Gulliver's Gift Shop online store and your support has been overwhelming. Your shopping at Gulliver's Gift Shop has helped us streamline our fulfillment processes, saving us time and money that we can better use to continue to pursue our research, education and conservation goals.
As a special thank you we would like to give everyone who supports Monarch Watch an early holiday gift. Click on the link below to get a FREE $5 Gift Certificate that you can use on any purchase of $20 or more in Gulliver's Gift Shop. Get yourself an early present or find something for a friend. We now have over 10,000 nature book and AV titles, 500 optics and backyard habitat items, and lots of great gift ideas.
Everyone who clicks on the link above will get the $5 Gift Certificate. What's more, 3 people will be selected at random to receive an additional $15 certificate!
So don't wait to get FREE $5 Gift Certificate and a chance at even more savings - good luck to everyone!
7) Bird Predation on Monarchs - by Chip Taylor
In prehistoric times, the air was filled with many large flying insects, representatives of a group known as the Paleodictyoptera. This group is extinct and the cause of their demise is a matter of speculation; however, vertebrates (particularly early lizards and primitive birds) may have had a role in their disappearance. Presently, as far as I'm aware, the only LARGE diurnal flying insects that share space with birds are migratory locusts and monarchs. The locusts make sense on the basis of numbers and monarchs on the basis of their distastefulness and emetic properties. Predation on monarchs by black-headed grosbeaks and black-backed orioles at the overwintering sites is well known and reasonably well studied. More recently, there have been a number of reports of predation on monarchs by scissortail flycatchers and in the last month Carol Cullar has reported predation by ladderback woodpeckers and grackles. Carol has raised the interesting possibility that the woodpeckers and grackles have learned to feed on the monarchs by watching the scissortail flycatchers. Predation by Western and Cassin's kingbirds is known to occur at the monarch overwintering sites in California. In an email, Bob Pyle mentioned that on a recent trip to Mexico a member of their group, Sunny Phillips, observed a redtailed hawk as it swerved, grabbed a monarch out the air (with its bill, not talons), and ate it - this is an amazing observation. In a further exchange concerning bird predation, Bob offered the following: " at the Bonneville Salt Flats (Utah), as I was watching a recently launched monarch rise on a thermal: 'A barn swallow appears, and I briefly fear for the rising butterfly. Barn swallows, ring-billed gulls, and English sparrows are the only birds here, and all are looking for breakfast. The hirundine makes one investigative pass at the butterfly, the monarch flies momentarily back at it, and the swallow veers away.' (Chasing Monarchs pp. 161-162). I never did see an incidence of predation on monarchs during the journey, though I did see aeschnid dragonflies make passes."
The classic story of birds and monarchs is that of the blue and scrub jays and the monarchs. Lincoln Brower and his associates showed that naive blue jays would eat monarchs only to "throw up" the monarch within about 10 minutes. Subsequent to this experience, the blue or scrub jays would not eat another monarch. A number of experiments showed that the emetic reaction of the birds was due to the vertebrate heart poisons, known as cardiac glycosides and cardenolides, compounds that the monarch acquires as a result of eating the milkweeds as a larva. As the work unfolded, it became apparent that not all monarchs produced the same response and this proved to be due to the milkweeds upon which the larvae fed. As it turns out, the cardenolides in milkweeds vary greatly from species to species. Thus, the monarchs themselves are highly variable in their potential edibility and there are monarchs with almost no chemical protection and others that are highly toxic. Monarchs which have fed on Asclepias syriaca, and this applies to perhaps 90% of the fall migrants, appear to have low cardenolide concentrations which may explain some of the bird predation.
8) Queens and Soldiers - by Chip Taylor
The genus to which monarchs belong, Danaus, consists of 11 species. Three of these, the monarch (Danaus plexippus), the queen (Danaus gilippus), and the soldier (Danaus eresimus), occur in the United States. The queen is broadly distributed across the southern states from Georgia to California. It is occasionally found as far north as Kansas, Colorado, Utah, and more recently at several locations along the Atlantic coast as far north as New Jersey. The soldier is widely distributed in the Americas but in the U.S. it is confined to south Texas with occasional sightings in Florida. Relatively little is known about the biology of this species. It is generally uncommon in the U.S. and appears not to have been studied in detail. There is a substantial amount of literature on the queen, including classical studies of courtship and mating, characterization of the pheromones used by males, and the queen's role as a model for mimicry with co-occurring Viceroys in the southern states.
Both the queen and the soldier, although they share many characteristics with monarchs, are considered to be sufficiently different from monarchs in morphology to be assigned to a different subgenus (Anosia). The queen and soldier have been reported to migrate but the accounts describe directional flight; overwintering clusters of the type found in monarchs have not been reported. In northern Mexico I have seen queens moving with monarchs in a southeasterly direction toward the mountains in Nuevo Leon in November. Like monarchs, the queens would cluster in the same trees each fall but they were clustered on a different portion of the trees and in lower branches than monarchs. In Nuevo Leon, a northern state in Mexico just south of Texas, queens were absent during the winter months. Whether they overwintered as adults or larvae is not clear. queens and soldiers use a wide array of milkweeds as hostplants for larvae including Asclepias curassavica.
The larva of both species are characterized by warning coloration, contrasting black, white and orange, that may serve to alert potential vertebrate predators that they are unpalatable or toxic. In the queen, the larvae with the less well-defined patterns are said to become females. If this is true, it provides a rare instance in which the sexes of larvae can be distinguished on the basis of color or pattern. The larvae of both species differ from monarchs in having a third set of filaments (sometimes known as tubercles, tentacles, feelers, etc.) that project from the dorsum (back) of the caterpillar from the segment just anterior to that bearing the first set of abdominal prolegs (see photo). The queen is known to have polymorphic pupae with most being green or jade and some being off-white or ivory and a few being pink (see photo). The genetic, or developmental, basis for these pupal color differences has not been established.
Like the monarch, there is much to be learned about both of these species. For those of you working with students in the areas where the queen and monarch, or all three, overlap, these species provide an opportunity for students to engage in a variety of comparative studies since all can be reared on A. curassavica.
Queen larva and pink pupa: http://www.MonarchWatch.org/update/queen.html
Monarchs, Queens, & Soldiers (courtesy of Mike Quinn, TPWD): http://home.satx.rr.com/txento/DNpix.htm
9) Interstate Shipment of Butterflies - by Chip Taylor
Recently, I spoke with a representative of the USDA APHIS (Animal Plant Health Inspection Service) concerning the proposed change in the regulations that apply to the interstate shipment of butterflies. The proposed regulations contained several provisions that would have had a marked impact on the rearing of monarchs in classrooms, their rearing and release under a variety of conditions, and the interstate shipment of live butterflies or their immature stages. These regulations have not been implemented. Currently, these proposed regulations, together with the public response, are under review. This will be a lengthy process, since there are new concerns associated with Homeland Security. At present, there is no way to predict when the new regulations will be adopted or whether they will include the provisions that so many people found objectionable. The old regulations remain in effect for the foreseeable future.
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