Monarch Watch Update - December 22, 2004



1) Tag Recoveries

2) Tag Recovery Fund

3) Status of the Population

4) Western Monarchs

5) News from Mexico

6) The Monarch - A State Insect for Indiana?

7) Monarch Caterpillars with Extra Filaments

8) 2005 Monarch Watch Tagging Kits

9) About Our Update List


Unless otherwise noted, all content was authored by Chip Taylor, edited by Jim Lovett and Sarah Schmidt, and published by Jim Lovett.


1) Tag Recoveries

The first tag to be recovered from Mexico this season was found by Eduardo Rendon Salinas at El Rosario. Eduardo works for World Wildlife Fund Mexico. The tag (EHZ 306) was issued to Gina Badgett, of the Monarch Butterfly Project in Rapid River, MI. Unfortunately, we have yet to receive the datasheet so we don’t have the complete record for this specimen. The second recovered tag (ECL 634) we learned of from Mike Quinn (of the Texas Parks and Wildlife) who visited the overwintering sites recently - this tag was applied to a monarch by Brian Flynn in Grand Rapids, MI on 8/28/04.

We wish to thank all of you who have responded to our appeal to return your datasheets. We appreciate your cooperation since the return of these sheets makes our job much easier and we are assured that once tags are recovered in Mexico that we will have a complete record for each of these recoveries. If you have yet to send us your datasheets, please do so.


2) Tag Recovery Fund

If you have been following the tagging and the recoveries for more than just this season, you know that Monarch Watch is faced with a major problem - namely the recovery of the massive number of tags found at El Rosario after the two winter storms that devastated the monarch population at this site last January. A more complete accounting to the tags remaining to be recovered can be found at

The task ahead is rather daunting both from a financial and logistical standpoint. To deal with the financial issues we are applying for funds to help cover the costs of the tags and we will be reducing our expenditures in several areas to free up funds so they can be used to purchase tags. However, even if our fundraising efforts are successful, it is unlikely that we will obtain sufficient funding to cover all the tags. So we once again need your help with the Tag Recovery Fund. Your contributions are fully tax deductible and can be sent to us at

Monarch Watch
University of Kansas
1200 Sunnyside Avenue
Lawrence, KS 66045

Please note that many employers offer a matching gift program which will effectively double your contribution. Such gifts to Monarch Watch are processed by the University of Kansas Endowment Association, an organization that manages several funds here at the University. Ask around at work for details and if you need assistance with this please contact us.

Your help will certainly be appreciated. Please keep in mind that money for the tags goes directly to the residents (ejido members) of El Rosario, who are the stewards of the forest and the monarch colony. Our program benefits from these contributions through the recovery of the tags and the data they represent and our taggers benefit by learning that their recovered tags have contributed additional information about the biology of monarchs. Because of the need to reduce expenditures, our trip to Mexico this winter will be quite short and this creates a logistical problem for the recovery of tags since it will be difficult to meet with all of the guides and residents who have tags. Therefore, if you are planning a trip to the El Rosario and/or Chincua sites this winter, you could help by purchasing tags - any number. We will be happy to reimburse all travelers for their tags but we must receive the tags before we can pay for them; a list of the tag codes is not sufficient. There are several reasons for this: 1) we end up paying for tags twice if we only receive the number from tags that are still held by residents; 2) we have had problems with counterfeit tags and we need to inspect each tag to be sure that it is legitimate; and 3) because the font on the tags is small, the codes need to be confirmed by us to be sure they are correct.

The going price for tags is 50 pesos - PLEASE DO NOT PAY MORE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. We simply can't afford to pay more than 50 pesos per tag.

The database records for all tags recovered last year are nearing completion and will be available soon.


3) Status of the Population

Relatively few of our taggers were able to tag large numbers of monarchs this past fall. Their lack of success is a reflection of the relatively low number of migrating monarchs this season. My view has been that the 2004 migration was the poorest in the last 16 years. But this view is subjective, supported by the many anecdotal accounts we’ve received from our participants and others who comment on the numbers of monarchs. It is also supported by the observations of Dick Walton and his crew at Cape May, who recorded the lowest number of monarchs in the 14 year history of this program

Interestingly, taggers were more successful in during the fall of 2000 than they were this past fall. Because the overwintering population in 2000/2001 was only 2.83 hectares and represents the all-time low overwintering population, it is tempting to speculate that the overwintering population this year might be as low as 2000/2001. However, it is not clear whether tagging success is directly related to the size of the overwintering population - it probably isn’t. As I’ve mentioned in previous Updates, it seems likely that once the overwintering population is measured, in aggregate, all colonies will total less than 4 hectares. The information on the size of the colonies at El Rosario and Chincua this season is quite sketchy but remains consistent with this interpretation. Fortunately, World Wildlife Fund Mexico (under the leadership of Eduardo Rendon Salinas, working with students from UNAM (Mexico’s largest University) as well as monarch scientists) will measure all the monarch colonies in December and January. Hopefully, the figures from all of their hard work will be available in January or February.


4) Western Monarchs - by Mia Monroe

Pacific Grove Monarch Sanctuary Closed for Season

Pacific Grove City Council voted on 12/16/04, to keep the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary closed until April 2005 so as not to disturb the butterflies. This decision follows the tragic accident at the site on November 27. During the Monarch Madness Festival, a visitor from New York died after being struck by a large branch that fell from a dead pine tree. The monarch site was immediately closed and subsequently a Santa Cruz arborist evaluated the situation. His report suggested that other trees also constituted a hazard and needed to be removed. The tree removal has been delayed until spring to avoid disturbing the overwintering butterflies. The City Manager hopes to open the Sanctuary from the entrance to the viewing platform after installing fencing to prevent anyone from venturing into an unsafe area. Hopefully, this safety modification will be accomplished in the near future. The City will also be posting signs advising visitors to "enter at their own risk". Members of the Ventana Wilderness Society that monitor the monarch population will be permitted to continue weekly studies at the site and volunteers will be allowed to water the newly planted trees. However, scheduled groups, affecting up to 500 students, have been cancelled. And, Ro Vaccaro, affectionately known to many as "The Butterfly Lady" is out of work and it’s breaking her heart. A tireless advocate for monarchs, Ro, and other volunteers with the PG Friends of the Monarchs, recently organized the first annual Monarch Madness Festival. During this event over 1,000 people learned about these winged wonders at the nearby Pacific Grove Natural History Museum.

THANKSGIVING COUNT FINDS MONARCHS THROUGHOUT STATE With just a few sites reporting, it looks like monarchs have returned in moderate numbers to the northern part of their range from small clusters at Bodega Bay to normal numbers at the East Bay sites of Albany Hill, Point Pinole, San Leandro and Ardenwood. In Marin, numbers were moderate but the good news is that some sites, unoccupied the last few years, now contain clusters of monarchs. Monarchs were also found at all the large Central California sites such as Natural Bridges, Pacific Grove, Pismo and Ellwood. However, very low numbers to none were reported from the southern part of the range. After the new year, Monarch monitoring teams will try to visit many of the above mentioned and other sites to determine if they can be classified as "overwintering" or “transitory” locations. Updates on the numbers of monarchs at each site will be posted the Xerces Society web site ( as they become available. Local papers have featured the work of the citizen scientists who monitor the monarch populations while also promoting interest in regional festivals and public tours.


5) News from Mexico

Changing of the guard
The following account deals with the recent resignation of the Director of the Monarch Biosphere Reserve in Mexico. Once again, the translation of the newspaper account has been provided by Carol Culler, Executive Director Rio Bravo Nature Center Foundation, Inc., Eagle Pass TX.

Resigns at Preserve; threats suspected - by Adam Garcia
November 24, 2004 - REFORMA/Michoacan

MORELIA - Marco Antonio Bernal Hernandez, Director of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Preserve for more than 5 years, resigned his post amid charges of supposed pressures by bands of illegal loggers.

An official of the environmental sector revealed that Bernal Hernandez had received death threats for his battle against illegal logging.

Nevertheless, officially it was reported that the former official had requested his relief for personal motives.

"As I understood, because I know it from his own mouth and in the terms that he presented his resignation, it was because of personal reasons and causes, simply that," said Ramun Ponce Contreras, the delegate of the Office of the Secretary of the Environment.

The resignation was given this last month of September, without the change being made public. In his place was named Eduardo Ramirez Alvarado.

"The new holder competed for the appointment, plain and simply, through business procedure now in the Career of Civil Service and he turned out lucky. The fight is taken out of the tiger"*, ironized Ponce Contreras.

During the time that he was at the front of the Direction of the Biosphere, Bernal participated in the design and execution of operations against the illegal loggers.

His more recent achievement was between January and June of this year, when they managed to intercept 3,580 cubic meters of lumber harvested illegally in the zone.

Still, last July 29, the former official participated in the installation of 19 video cameras which, since then, watch strategic points of the forest.

Bernal was sought to know the reasons for his resignation, but he was not located. His name still appears on the board of directors of officials of the National Commission of Protected Areas.

Maria Elena Diaz Vazquez, senior official in Zitacuaro’s City Hall, confirmed that the former official had received pressures.

"It fell to him to face much of the illegal logging problem, the accusations that there were from all sides; he had to go to Mexico [federal government] to ask support. In my opinion I feel that he withdrew because of such pressure", she indicated.

*This is a literal translation of the Spanish idiomatic phrase “se sacó la rifa del tigre” which is usually used in a political context. Most often it seems to mean the candidate won the election or position but now has to deal with all the problems (del tigre) of the job.

Reports of the Mexican government’s efforts to crack down on illegal logging appear from time to time in the Mexican press and international news reports originating in Mexico. One such report from Reuters appeared on the 7th of December. The entire report can be accessed at

The gist of this account is that the government is taking enforcement seriously and has arrested 103 people and secured the equivalent of 1530 truckloads of illegally harvested trees in the past 6 months. The budget of the organization(s) responsible for enforcement of forest regulations has been increased substantially to meet the threat posed by the illegal logging. To quote from the article: "The government's biggest battle is over the state-protected 133,400-acre Monarch butterfly reserve in central Mexico, whose highland fir forests have shrunk by nearly half since 1968, despite massive planting operations."

In the past several weeks two accounts of the seizure of logging trucks have been posted to the listserve (Dplex-L). Unfortunately, reports or accounts of these seizures in the Mexican press do not give much detail. However, a short notice posted to the PROFEPA website:

confirms that 25 trucks (23 in some accounts) with 450 cubic meters of wood were confiscated in the zone of the monarchs. The article also mentions the placement of 10 surveillance cameras to monitor the forests and the commitment of the government to provide 16,500,000pesos for support of sustainable logging operations in the area. There is no elaboration on what sustainable logging means in this case. Normally, “sustainable” is used to describe programs in which the rate of removal of trees is offset by growth and replacement of trees with the latter involving extensive programs to replant logged areas and to reforest areas that are marginal for agriculture.

Improvements at El Rosario
The following text is abstracted from an article in Cambio de Michoacán dated December 4, 2004 by René Serrano

With the help of funds from both state and federal sources (14 million pesos) many improvements have been made to the infrastructure at El Rosario, the monarch colony visited most frequently by tourists. The facilities have been modified to make them more attractive and improvements have been made to the audio-visual interpretation center, cafeteria, infirmary, house of registry, and offices. There is even a facility for the storage of luggage. The footpaths have been improved by making two distinct lanes bounded by large ropes. The educational signs have been modified. Some of the personnel have been issued uniforms and all carry clear identification. To add to the comfort and safety of the tourists, many of the trucks that carry tourists up the mountain from Ocampo have been equipped with padded seats. The trucks have been inspected and the drivers have been required to pass both medical exams and driving tests. Over 130,000 tourists visited El Rosario last season and the number is expected even greater this year.


6) The Monarch: A State Insect for Indiana?

Does your state have a state insect? Do you know what it is? If not, visit

An examination of the listings for states shows that the honey bee and the monarch are two of the favorite state insects and both have been proposed as our national insect. The following states list the monarch as their state insect: Alabama, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, Vermont and West Virginia. Minnesota was the most recent state to declare the monarch as its state insect (31 March 2000). In this case, the students at Anderson Elementary School of Mahtomedhi, MN visited the state legislature three times to promote passage of a bill making the monarch the state insect. Lisa Conrad, a teacher at Waterloo Elementary School in the northeastern Indiana, informs us that a similar effort is now underway in her state:

Students at Waterloo Elementary in NE Indiana have taken on a mission of trying to convince our state to adopt the monarch butterfly as the state insect. Some of our legislative members do not feel we need a state insect. (41 other states DO have a state insect.) Our students grow milkweed on the school grounds and raise and release monarchs each year, we also study monarchs each fall and participate in the symbolic paper migration (Journey North).

Indiana is currently one of 9 states without a state insect. Eighty-five percent of our world’s species consist of insects. The monarch butterfly is an excellent representative of Indiana’s natural wildlife and would be a superb symbol of strength, endurance, and beauty for our state.

The monarch butterfly would make an excellent state insect for these reasons:

1. All of the 4 stages of monarch life can be found in Indiana between May and October of every year.

2. This butterfly’s caterpillar host plant milkweed, (common milkweed, swamp milkweed, and butterfly weed) is common in fields, ditches and yards in Indiana.

3. Monarchs are easily raised and studied in classrooms and homes.

4. Monarchs symbolize the need to conserve and protect our environment.

5. Monarchs are pollinators and are beneficial to farmers and gardeners.

6. Monarchs can be seen gathering in roosting sites in Indiana each fall.

7. The monarch is a symbol of strength and endurance as it migrates 2000 miles south to central Mexico each fall.

8. School children throughout the state already study the monarch life cycle and participate in tracking the migration each fall and spring.

9. Many Indiana school children take part annually in an international symbolic paper monarch migration and act as ambassadors by writing letters asking others to care for this beautiful butterfly.

10. Citizens of Indiana are creating butterfly gardens to attract monarchs and other butterflies by replanting native Indiana wildflowers.

11. The orange, black, and white colors are symbolic for our state. Orange represents the colorful fall foliage, black represents our rich, fertile farmland, and white represents blankets of winter snow.

12. Gene Stratton-Porter, Indiana author and naturalist observed and adored butterflies. She wrote, “I was friend to every bird, flower, and butterfly. My love for butterflies took the form of adoration. I called them flying flowers. In September…a monarch was enthroned on every sunbeam.” Her homes are currently Indiana State Historic Sites.

13. The monarch has been nominated by the Xerces Society as the United States’ national insect.

To relate the monarch proposal to her students Lisa Conrad provided the following poem:

Monarch Butterfly for Indiana State Insect!

After researching we did detect
That Indiana has no state insect.
Without insects we’d have no pollination.
Imagine the effect on our great nation!

What does it matter? You might want to know.
Well, caterpillars, like children, quickly change and they grow.
Said our children in Waterloo
“We want the monarch, what can we do?”
We raise them and feed them then wait to see –
Male or female, what will they be?

Then with hope and with faith, very carefully
We hold our monarchs before setting them free.

We track their path – to see where they will go.
And write letters to children in Mexico.
We act as ambassadors for our state,
To protect and preserve the monarch’s fate.

Monarchs – beautiful symbols of delicate grace,
Yet strong enough to endure the paths they must face.
In just one month we observe and see
As the egg transforms before you and me.
Caterpillar – chrysalis- and then butterfly.
A natural mystery rising to the sky.

Like the orange leaves that adorn Indiana trees in the fall,
Orange monarch wings give one more reason to all.
We see little white dots on their wings ---
A symbol of the snow Indiana winter brings.

So, Senate and House members listen, we ask,
Please hear our voices and rise to the task.
Our youth are the ones we’ll someday elect-
Who now ask for the monarch as our state insect.
Listen to letters your children have sent.
Let’s all make a difference in state government!

Lisa Conrad


If you would like to help with the effort to promote the monarch as the state insect of Indiana you can contact: Monarch for Indiana State Insect, Waterloo Elementary, 300 East Douglas Street, Waterloo, IN 46793. Questions or comments - email:


7) Monarch Caterpillars with Extra Filaments

Filaments, the two pairs of feeler-like structures on the back of monarch caterpillars, were discussed in an earlier update in connection with imaginal discs and the development of wings,

These structures are of interest once again because monarch caterpillars have been found in California and Florida that had extra pairs of filaments. An account of these two findings, including excellent pictures and a link to a PDF file of an article describing the development of the caterpillars found in Florida, can be found at

The number of pairs of filaments (also known as tubercles) in the butterflies most closely related to monarchs (Danainae) varies from 1-5. In the monarch, the first pair of filaments is located on postcephalic segment two – in other words, the second segment behind the head or the second thoracic segment (above the second pair of legs) and on segment 11. Although filaments have been found on all segments when all species of the Danainae are considered, the most common patterns are some combination of segments 2, 3, 5, 10 and 11. The caterpillars pictured on the Monarch Program website have filaments on 2, 3, 5 and 11. This pattern is not known for any member of the genus Danaus and has only been reported from genera of the Danainae that are not closely related to Danaus. For another example of this pattern, view the images of the larva of the crow butterfly of Australia:

The Florida larvae described by Farrey and Davis have the same filament pattern (2, 5, and 11) found in larvae of the queen butterfly, Danaus gilippus:


8) 2005 Monarch Watch Tagging Kits

Great News! We have significantly reduced the purchase price of Monarch Watch Tagging Kits for 2005 and have added a brand new kit geared toward Nature Centers, Schools, Zoos, and anyone else that redistributes tags to groups of monarch taggers through their own programs or events. We will begin accepting orders for the 2005 Tagging Kits in January and will have complete details available in the next Update. Stay Tuned!


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