2) Status of the Population
3) Spring Conditions
4) Tag Recoveries
6) Monarch Glue?!
7) 2001 Season Summary Mailed
8) Plant Sale
9) Attention: Houston, TX Monarch Watchers
10) How to Unsubscribe from this Update
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2) Status of the Population - by Chip Taylor
Based on the size of the monarch population returning from Mexico, one might expect that the number of sightings reported this spring would be higher than for the last two springs; this is not the case. The number of sightings this spring, as reported to Monarch Watch and Journey North, is about the same as last year (through 18 April) and the previous year as well. Recall that at the end of each of the last two winters, the population moving north may have been the equivalent of two hectares of butterflies or less. This spring, due to the apparent low mortality at the colonies through the winter, and the large number of monarchs seen at many sites at the end of the overwintering season, the numbers of monarchs moving into the United States in the last six weeks should have exceeded the numbers in the previous two springs. Yet, about the same number of first sightings have been reported. In fact, the numbers are slightly lower for Texas than they were last year.
I dont know how to interpret this observation about the sightings. It could mean that the numbers of sightings each year were somewhat observer limited. In other words, the number of sightings is limited by the number of people willing to report their observations. This is certainly possible; it is in fact, likely. However, it may also be that the numbers of returning monarchs this spring are fewer than expected based on the measurements of the colonies during the winter months. Weather could also be a factor, especially the weather during the weekends, since it is during the weekends that many observers have their best opportunities to see returning monarchs.
In Kansas, the first overwintering monarchs are usually reported in mid April and from 14-21 in Lawrence. A worn monarch was observed here in Lawrence on 4/22 by Monarch Watch Program Assistant Sarah Schmidt. On the campus of Kansas State University (80 miles to the NW of Lawrence) a worn male monarch was spotted in the middle of last week (14-16 April).
Offspring from the first eggs laid by returning overwintering monarchs in Texas should be heading north in the next week . The first of these new butterflies could reach the middle of the U.S. (e.g., Kansas City) during the first week of May. Given the lush conditions in Texas this spring (due to the fall, winter and late winter rainfall) the number of first generation monarchs coming out of Texas in May should be substantial - but what will they encounter as they move north?
3) Spring conditions
As mentioned last month, a concern for the coming monarch breeding season is the prevalence of drought in the major breeding habitat in the upper Midwest. Although spring rains have begun in a few areas, a check with Drought Monitor (http://www.drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html) shows that conditions as of 15 April have not changed substantially from those in mid March. Abnormally dry to extreme dry conditions persist for nearly all of the corn belt and areas to the north that serve as major breeding grounds for monarchs. Hopefully, spring rains will ameliorate the drought over much of this region.
In most areas of the country the temporal sequence of spring, i.e., the arrival of birds, appearance of first flowers, etc. seems to be normal or near normal. Here, in Lawrence, KS, the ornamental fruit trees reached their peak bloom on the 13th of April, coincident with the long term average for peak flowering for these cultivars on campus. Although I have yet to see emergent milkweeds they should be beginning sprout, especially along road margins and in burnt over prairies and pastures.
4) Tag Recoveries
In February, Dave Kust informed us that he and his family were going to make a trip to Angangueo at the end of March just before the Sanctuaries were to be closed to the public for the season. I prevailed upon Daves good nature and asked him if he could help us acquire additional tags. Dave agreed and I sent him all the money still available in the Tag Recovery Fund. Dave had no difficulty finding residents, whom we had missed during our trip, that still had tags and Sarah is now in the process of adding another 300 tags Dave purchased to our database. This raises the total number of recovered tags to over 1100 for the year. Most of the new tags were from the winter kill from the previous winter and the total recoveries for the winter of 2001-2002 are now close to 2700 or 2.6% of the butterflies tagged during the 2001 fall migration.
Dave Kust sent me three emails during his brief visit to the colonies. I posted these to Dplex-L, our email discussion list. However, since only about 1/16 of you that receive this email update are also on Dplex-L, I thought it might be useful, and fun, to include an edited version of Daves comments here to give you a sense of his experience.
Monday, 24 March
Hi Chip! It is only Monday and your tag money is gone! We crashed at Jordis (in Mexico city), then hopped a bus to Zitacuaro Saturday afternoon. I wasnt in the bus station there for 2 minutes when a guy comes up to me and wanted to know if I would like to buy his tags!!! In the Zitacuaro bus station!! Needless to say, when we arrived in Angangueo later that evening, word quickly spread that I had a few pesos to unload. By noon today I was out of pesos. There was literally a line out to the street in front of our old casa but it seemed easiest and safest and more controllable for me to buy them there. All those waiting with tags were from Rosario, except the guy in line who was there to see the doctor...
Anyway, when you said there werent many (tags) at Chincua, I decided to be done with it and rationed the pesos out to the first 10 people in line. Like you experienced, some had 100 or more. I could have been done after the first 3 people but decided to spread the wealth around a bit, as we have always tried to do. Some of these locals have actually become pretty efficient "tag brokers"...these guys buy up the tags from many different families and kids who are too impatient to wait for the pesos.
There will be plenty of people waiting for you next year and I have estimated there are at least 300 more tags that I have actually seen in hand. I havent even been to the sanctuaries so I am sure to hear of hundreds more waiting to be sold. I will tell them just to sit tight till 2004.
Plenty of monarchs floating through the streets of Angangueo and many high overhead. I will be sure to let you know what we see when we get up in the sanctuaries.
Tuesday, 25 de Marzo
Hey Chip...finally got up to Chincua today, or should I say DOWN to Chincua. There are still some monarchs hanging around at about 9,500 feet...The kids and I counted about 35 to 40 trees still with roosts, the largest with upwards of 20 bags (clusters) intact. Occasionally there would be some cascading or "explosions" as some of these would shift and reform their roosts on nearby trees and/or trunks. Only a few trees had "trunk roosting"...
Wednesday 26 March
Today we headed up towards Rosario on the road up from Angangueo. The parking lot at the Rancheria de La Salud (where the monarchs have evidently been most of March according to our guide,) is located at about 9500 feet. Lots of butterfly activity today, sunny, 58 in the shade, good breezes, lots of streaming down from what remains of this colony. Many (butterflies) puddling in the seeps and rios (little rivers). First bags located at 9680 -- only about 10 trees with bags here. A bit higher...20 or so small trees here with bags...spread out. 6-8 large trees with many bags. Observed a steady flow of monarchs all the way down the mountain in the back of the cabineta (2 PM). Lots on the hojancha (yellow) and palomia (white) bushes...(with feeding monarchs). -Dave
Without Dave Kusts assistance and enthusiasm, and the good will that hes established with the local people, we would have far fewer tags to report on each of the last two years. Dave, thanks again for your help. -Chip
NOTE: We have begun posting the 2002 recovery data online so be sure to check out our website for updates:
After numerous difficulties, delays, and miscommunications, the Adopt-a-Classroom materials and books were recently delivered to office of the Presidente (Mayor) in Ocampo. It is our understanding that the materials are now being delivered to the schools in the vicinity of the Monarch Biosphere Reserve. Please see the previous updates for more information. Again, thanks to all of you who contributed to Adopt-a-Classroom this past year.
6) Monarch Glue?!
Did you know that monarchs make glue? Indeed they do - in fact, its a kind of fast drying, water-insoluble, super glue and they use it to affix the eggs to the leaf surface. The glue is produced by a pair of long tubular tissues known as collaterial glands, which empty into the common oviduct. Eggs pass down the common oviduct blunt end first, and somehow (no one seems to know just how) adhesive is placed on the blunt end of the egg as, or perhaps just before, it passes through the ovipositor and is placed on the surface of a leaf. This process has to be carried out in such a way so as to not cover the ovipositor or abdomen with glue. As the egg makes contact with the surface of the leaf, the drop spreads so that there is a narrow ring of glue around the base of the egg (see link to images below). If you look closely at the first image you will see bubbles within the ring of glue. The bubbles are even more apparent in the second image, which shows an upside down egg with the glue still in place. Glues that are basic, rather than acidic, tend to have bubbles embedded in the matrix. The glue does not cover any portion of the surface of the egg that would be involved with respiration. To show students how this works, add a sizeable drop of viscous glue to one end of a round half-inch eraser and then set the eraser end with the glue on a surface. You will get a ring of glue around the base of the eraser that will increase the forces of adhesion by increasing the area in contact with the surface and with the eraser. If the surface is rough, the glue will meld/flow into depressions in the surface, or in the case of a leaf, its hairs (trichomes), etc. to make a better seal. Monarchs generally lay their eggs on the undersides of leaves so the forces of adhesion associated with the glue have to be greater than those of gravity or the eggs would not adhere to the leaves. To be effective, the viscosity of the glue must be relatively high and the glue must "fix" almost instantly upon contact with air. We are still looking for references on the chemical composition of insect adhesives - they could be composed of proteins, alpha amino acids, mucopolysaccarides, or even be silk like proteins. Collagen, a common animal glue, seems to be ruled out because of its solubility in water and low incidence in insects.
7) 2001 Season Summary Mailed
Keep checking those mailboxes ;-) The 2001 Season Summary was mailed this week and should arrive soon; however, it can take up to a few weeks for delivery to some addresses. Now it's time to turn our attention to the 2002 Season Summary!
8) Plant Sale
We are still trying to organize the Plant Sale that was mentioned in the last Update, but we are planning on it being sometime in May. Stay tuned!
9) Attention Houston, TX Monarch Watchers
If you live in the Houston, TX area, Monarch Watch could use your help! The Houston chapter of Ducks Unlimited is hosting a Houston Area Greenwing Day on Sunday, May 18th at the American Shooting Center. Set-up is from 9-10 and the event is from 12-4. We are looking for someone who would be willing to man a booth and talk about monarchs. We can provide materials to hand out and some caterpillars to show off. Anyone who is interested can send an e-mail to Sarah at email@example.com. Please let us know ASAP so we can get back to the event coordinator with an answer. Thank you!
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