1) Status of the Population
2) Monarch Waystations
3) 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) Status of the Population
Last year at this time, I predicted that the total hectares for the monarch overwintering population would be less that 4 hectares. My prediction was based on the conditions in the spring, those through the summer, and the reports from taggers in the fall. The reports from the taggers suggested that the migration was the poorest in 16 years. This assessment was subsequently supported by the count of the total number of butterflies tagged. This total was a bit less than 26,000 and was the lowest number of monarchs tagged since the fall of 1996, the fifth year of our program. The total overwintering population was only 2.19 hectares, the lowest population recorded to date. My prediction of less than 4 hectares was borne out, but I suspected that the final population would prove to be much lower since the there were many similarities to 2000, when the final numbers were only 2.83 hectares. A partial analysis of the reasons for the low numbers of monarchs in 2004 can be found in the "Teaching with Monarchs" section of the January 2005 Update:
The situation this year is quite different. I have been predicting an overwintering population of at least 7 hectares with a total of about 5 hectares for the three major colonies, Sierra Chincua, El Rosario, and Cerro Pelon. This estimate, like the prediction for 2004, is also deliberately conservative. The population could certainly be higher. Indeed, all the reports we have received from Mexico suggest that the number of monarchs this year may be above the long-term average of 9 hectares.
However, it is hard to assess these eyewitness accounts. People remembering the low numbers of last year are likely to be overly impressed with any increase in the population. One reporter I spoke with mentioned that one of the Mexican authorities, I'm not sure whom, was predicting a total population of 200-220 million monarchs. If this prediction was based on the assumption that there are an average of 10-12 million monarchs per hectare, then they are predicting that the total population could be 17 to 20 hectares. Wow! If true, this would certainly blow away my conservative prediction and the total number of monarchs would rival the numbers reported in 1996 (20.97 hectares) - the largest population reported since the monarch colonies became known to science. Further, such numbers would signal a truly remarkable comeback, since the spring population that moved north in 2005 had to have been one of the smallest, if not the smallest, in the last 30 years. As it is, a comeback to a population of 7-9 hectares from one that was only 2.19 last year is amazing.
The answer to the size of the population this winter will soon be known. Eduardo Rendon Salinas and his crew (World Wildlife Fund Mexico) are measuring the colonies now and will continue to do so through January. These measurements of the colonies are the only way to assess the true size of the population and the only way to get a perspective on the differences from one year to the next. This is truly a unique and valuable service provided by the World Wildlife Fund Mexico (WWFMX). This is the third year during which WWFMX has managed this task. Previously, these measurements were provided by Eligio Garcia Serrano, who worked under the directive of the office of PROFEPA (Procuraduría Federal de Protección al Ambiente - The Federal Ministry for Environmental Protection) and who worked frequently with Eduardo from 1993-2002. In 2002, Marco Bernal, Bill Calvert, Isabel Ramirez, Jose Maria Suarez, and Lincoln Brower measured the colonies. Eligio and Eduardo, with the support of their organizations and the additional crew in 2002, have provided us with a continuous record of the monarch overwintering populations from 1993 to the present. Would you believe that monarchs are the only insect in the world for which there is an estimate of a continentally distributed population and is only one of a relatively small number of animal species for which there is an annual census of this type? Numerous evaluations of insect populations have been undertaken in the last 40 years, and some are quite long in duration, but all deal with species confined to special habitats, or, in many cases, endangered species. The measurement of numbers of hectares occupied by the monarchs each year in Mexico is extraordinary and provides valuable insights as to the factors that drive the population.
2) Monarch Waystations
Considering the late start for the Monarch Waystation Program (21 April 2005) and the limited publicity the program received, we are off to a great start. We sold over 1100 Monarch Waystation seed kits in 2005 and there are now 386 registered and certified Monarch Waystations. We are hoping to do even better in 2006. The seeds have been ordered for new kits (including one specifically designed for California) and we are planning a publicity campaign to encourage many others to create monarch habitats.
We also need your help encouraging others to create Monarch Waystations. One way to do this is to create coverage of this unique conservation effort in your local newspaper. Jane Fousler of Elmhurst, IL did just that. Jane is a good friend of Margarete Johnson who, as you may recall, creates and maintains the nectar and host plant resources in the Monarch Watch's own Monarch Waystation. Margarete does an outstanding job and she is extremely enthusiastic. During a visit to Lawrence to see Margarete, Jane was introduced to the Monarch Waystation idea. Jane returned to Elmhurst and set to work on her own garden, adding milkweeds, nectar plants and host plants for other butterflies. Soon after, she registered her garden as a Monarch Waystation (#245). In October, I was contacted by Kathleen Cantwell, a Liberty Suburban Chicago Newspaper writer, who wanted to write a story about Jane Fousler and her Monarch Waystation. The result was a detailed and nicely illustrated story that first stared appearing in suburban Chicago-area newspapers around the 10th of November. Hopefully, this story and Jane's advocacy as Co-Chair of the Elmhurst Garden Club's conservation committee will encourage others in the Chicago area to create Monarch Waystations.
The Monarch Waystation Registry, an online listing of current certified Monarch Waystations is available at
We will soon be adding more information for each site as we receive photos and text from the applicants. For an interesting analysis of the distribution of Monarch Waystations please see the following GardenWeb forum thread:
Larry Gene posted the analysis and Mike Cronin added commentary and alerted us to the original post. Thanks to both of you!
3) About Our Update List
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