Monarch Watch Update - October 24, 2003



1) Welcome!

2) Conservation Perspectives

3) Status of the Population

4) 2002 Season Recoveries

5) Please Return Your Datasheets

6) Tachinid Update

7) Monarch Watch in Central Park

8) Kansas University Open House

9) California Events

10) Harvesting Milkweed Seeds

11) An Invitation: Video Conference with Monarch Watch

12) How to Unsubscribe from this Update


1) Welcome to Monarch Watch's Update List!

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2) Conservation Perspectives

Through the fall and winter months Jordi Honey Rosés, of the World Wildlife Fund Mexico, will provide perspectives on the Monarch Biosphere Reserve and the status of conservation efforts in Mexico. This is the first time detailed information has been available on the efforts to maintain the overwintering colonies. The first of Jordi’s reports appeared in the September Update. This month Jordi has provided two accounts of the developments in Mexico that affect monarchs. This email letter contains abstracts of these accounts. The full texts can be found at the links provided. Those of you interested in the preservation of the monarch overwintering sites in Mexico will find these reports to be very informative.

September 22, 2003

This September, Mexican President Vicente Fox did a little shuffle. A cabinet shuffle, that is, removing the Federal Government’s top Environmental Officials: The Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), Victor Lichtinger, gone. The head of the Mexican Environmental Attorney General’s Office (PROPEPA), responsible for enforcing environmental laws, including illegal logging, José Campillo, gone. The Fox shuffle even went down the ranks to remove SEMARNAT’s Subsecretary for Planning, Subsectretary for Management and Protection, top Legal Council and Director of International Affairs. They all got the boot, and now the questions are why, and what are the implications?

Full text at

October 3, 2003

Morelia Meeting

Over one hundred government officials, academics and conservationists met in Morelia, Michoacán on September 29th to discuss a proposal to co-organize a Monarch Regional Forum. Increased anticipation for the meeting resulted from an opinion article published the day before by Mexican poet and columnist Homero Aridjis, where he called upon government to take advantage of this gathering to reach agreements and to enforce the law.

The meeting was hosted by Michoacán Governor Lázaro Cárdenas Batel, and the Director of WWF Mexico Program, Omar Vidal. Not since President Fox visited the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in November 2001 had so many high level officials come to the same table to discuss Monarch Butterfly conservation. If one considers that President Fox’s visit to the Reserve was purely ceremonial, as was the event signing into law the 2000 Monarch Protected Area, one could claim that not since the North American Morelia Conference in 1997 had such a high level working-group been convened to discuss conservation strategies for the Monarch Butterfly overwintering sites.

Full text at

Reforestation and Education

The 2003 reforestation season has recently come to a close. The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve has coordinated the planting of 877,800 trees in the Reserve this 2003 season. Trees came from the nurseries of the Federal Forestry Commission (CONAFOR), Michoacán state Forestry Commission (COFOM), State of Mexico Forestry Commission (PROBOSQUE), Municipal nurseries and private businesses, such as Rexcel. Of course, tree survival rate is key. An evaluation of the 2003 reforestation season in the Monarch region is being conducted, and soon will be made publicly available. *** The Zoological Society of San Diego has supported reforestation this season working directly with the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. They have also donated radios to communities suffering from illegal logging. Four hundred copies of an education manual on Monarch Butterfly biology called Mariposa Monarca: Uniendo un Continente (The Monarch Butterfly: Uniting a Continent) have arrived in Mexico and are currently being distributed to schools in and around the Reserve. This publication was written by both Mexican and U.S. biologists, has been translated into both languages and was published by the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary Foundation.


3) Status of the Population - by Chip Taylor

Throughout the summer and fall I have predicted a good migration - a better migration than last year. Last year's migration is still a mystery to me. I had predicted a small migration due to the drought and the reports of low breeding populations in many areas. My expectations seemed to have been confirmed by the lower success of the taggers and the absence of reports of masses of monarchs during the migration. I was surprised, perplexed, and humbled when the reports from the overwintering sites indicated that the overwintering population exceeded 8 hectares. This was a midrange population, slightly lower than the average (9.6 hectares), but much higher than I had expected. This demonstrates that I still have a great deal to learn about how to predict the fall population. So, it is with some reservation that I’m predicting that the winter population this year will be larger than that of 2002-2003. I can’t say how much larger, but reports of good numbers of breeding monarchs and large numbers of migrants came from more locations this year than in the fall of 2002. Similar to last year, low numbers of monarchs were reported from central Kansas and westward. This is expected based on the drought in the areas to the north and west of this portion of the flyway. Cape May ( has been reporting numbers that translate into a midrange population and, unlike last year when we had many 10s of emails complaining of the lack of monarchs in New England, we have had many positive reports from this region this season.

Although the leading edge of the migration arrived a few days early in eastern Kansas, the progression of the migration appears to have been on schedule or even a bit delayed in Texas. Due to the warm fall weather there have many reports of late migrants. We have had high numbers such stragglers in Kansas (I saw at least 30 on the 12th) and unlike most years these late butterflies are quite large and appear to have good fat reserves. As in previous years, we are expecting the leading edge of the migration to reach the overwintering sites in Mexico in the last few days of October.


4) 2002 Season Recoveries

We have finished processing the 2002 recovery data and it is now available to view/download as a PDF file (30 pages, 160K) at:

We are working on posting the recoveries for all years in a much more user friendly, searchable format and hope to announce this new feature before the 2003 Season recoveries are ready. As always, if you can help us fill in any of the blanks, please contact us at Thanks!


5) Please Return Your Datasheets

If you check out the recovery data mentioned above you'll notice that there are over 150 records that are incomplete - this is due to the fact that the datasheets with those tag numbers were not returned to us. Each year we spend quite a bit of time and money trying to track down missing datasheets and even after multiple requests by phone, fax, email, or regular mail some datsheets are never returned. These recovered tags then are essentially meaningless and the resources spent on tagging the monarchs, recovering the tags, and processing the data are wasted :-( Given our already limited resources, these "lost" datasheets are a big deal - those 150 records from 2002 alone will translate into over $1,500.00 in expenses that could have been better spent elsewhere.

So please, PLEASE return your datasheets and any unused tags once the migration has left your area or you have finished tagging for the season. Thanks!


6) Tachinid Update - by Chip Taylor

In the table below I have added the records for the rate of parasitism by tachinid flies for September. Sixty seven percent of the monarch larvae (N=89)collected during September were parasitized. This was 22% higher than the rate of loss to these parasitoids in August and the general trend seems to be an increase through the season although parasitoid abundance may have dipped in late July and early August. I thought the project would end in September but we continued to find 5th instar larvae in our milkweed garden through the 13th so I will have more numbers to add next month.

The literature suggests that up to 14 species of tachinids parasitize monarchs. One of my goals is to build a photo archive of all these species. The collections in our entomological museum only have a few of these species so, to build this photo archive, I need your help. Please keep sending me samples of the tachinids from your area.

Rate of parasitism of 3-5th instar larvae collected in the wild summer 2003

Date / Parasitized / Normal / Deformed / Dead, other causes* / Proportion Parasitized**

June / 3 / 10 / 1 / 7 / .214

July / 3 / 14 / 0 / 1 / .176

Aug / 21 / 25 / 0 / 2 / .456

Sept / 60 / 29 / 0 / 0 / .674

Total / 87 / 78 / 1 / 10 / .518***

* Disease or pesticide – symptoms of non-inclusion virus, pesticide poisoning and unknown.

** Proportion of all J (pre-pupation) or pupal stage immatures from which tachinid larvae emerged.

***The number of fly larvae emerging from each monarch larva or pupa is highly variable. The largest numbers, 6-8 fly larvae, emerge from nearly mature 5th instar monarch larvae. Smaller numbers emerge from pupae and late fourth and early fifth instar monarchs.


7) Monarch Watch in Central Park - by Chip Taylor

Monarch Watch In Central Park 2003 (the 4th Annual Event) was held on the 19th of September at Belvedere Castle. This event is held each year to alert New Yorkers to the conservation issues associated with monarchs and to celebrate the wonders of their magnificent migration. Hurricane Isabel had passed to the west of New York City the previous day and the weather persons had forecast a lingering effect of the hurricane in the form of high winds and clouds with possible morning showers. The prospects for favorable conditions for this outside event looked slim but the forecast was wrong and the skies cleared by 9am and the beautiful weather attracted 80-100 people to Belvedere Castle. The formal portion of the event consisted of welcoming speeches and a talk by the Mexican Consul, followed by presentations by monarch experts (read by Kurt Johnson and Richard Stadin). A Mariachi band entertained the crowd and emphasized the connection monarchs have with Mexico. After the formal portion of the event, the children in attendance tagged about 100 monarchs with the help of the Urban Park Rangers. Once again this event was sponsored and organized by Richard Stadin, President of Mastervision (, Producer and Distributor of Audubon Butterfly & Bird Videos. Kurt Johnson facilitated communications among the various interested parties and Yvonne McDermot and Gary Rozman, representing the Urban Parks Rangers, coordinated the participation of all Parks personnel. The event received a great deal of coverage in the media including a widely distributed AP article by Amy Westfeldt.



8) Kansas University Open House - by Chip Taylor

The 20th of September turned out to be a spectacular day in Lawrence, Kansas and a perfect day for a Saturday football game and an Open House. The goal of the Open house was to provide an opportunity for the families of students and alums to interact with faculty and student representatives of various university departments and programs. I volunteered to represent Monarch Watch and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. The organizations were stationed at tables in front of Strong Hall along Jayhawk Blvd. Since we had some extra wild caught monarchs, I spent the afternoon showing hundreds of visitors how to tag and release monarchs. Eighty-five monarchs were tagged and released during the event. To get the attention of the children, I hung newly emerged monarchs from my beard - it worked quite well.



9) California Events - by Chip Taylor

There were two significant events in California earlier this month. Bob Small was honored and recognized for his outstanding achievement in coordinating the fundraising and support for the Michoacán Reforestation Fund at a luncheon on the afternoon of 2 October The meeting was also held to celebrate a major achievement. Beginning in 1997, the Michoacán Reforestation Fund has provided the resources for the planting of over 1 million trees on private lands in the vicinity of the monarch overwintering sites. Bob was presented with a scrapbook with filled with articles, pictures, and letters of appreciation from many of the people he has worked with in the last 7 years. Jose Luis Alvarez and his wife Patricia, who are the Mexican partners in this relationship, were present along with Lincoln Brower, Don Davis, Maraleen Manos Jones, and other supporters of the Michoacán Reforestation Fund. The following article provides additional information on Bob and the work in Mexico.,1413,82~1726~1695315,00.html


The presence of a number of monarch people from outside California at the meeting on the 2nd was used to great advantage by Helen Johnson. Helen has been trying for several years to get those with an interest in monarchs in California to work together. With the assistance of Mia Monroe, who served as organizer and coordinator, Helen supported a meeting that brought together 25 people interested in monarchs at the Coyote Hills Regional Park, in Fremont, California on the 3rd. The meeting was titled " The Monarch Exchange". The purpose of the meeting was to assemble those active in monarch research and conservation in California to discuss recent progress and future directions together with others, such as Lincoln Brower, Don Davis, and Chip Taylor, who have worked on these issues east of the Rockies. The setting was outstanding, the weather was beautiful and the exchange of ideas generated a large "to do" list of items for those working with monarchs west of the Rockies to consider. The meeting was a great success and this was a step toward a more comprehensive and cohesive plan for conservation of the monarchs west of the divide.

Participant photos:


10) Harvesting Milkweed Seeds - by Chip Taylor

Some milkweed species have seedpods that mature in mid season while others mature at the end of the summer. In the northern portion of the monarch breeding range the following species have seedpods that mature at the end of the season: Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed), A. incarnata (swamp milkweed), A. sullivantii (Sullivant’s milkweed), A. tuberosa (butterfly weed) and Cynanchum laeve (blue vine, sand vine). Examples of the seedpods of each of these species can be found at:

In general, it is best to collect the seedpods when they are about to split or have just begun to do so. If the seedpods are picked before the seeds inside the pods have darkened, the seeds are not as likely to germinate.

The paper bag method seems to be best for separating the seeds from the silk or coma. To achieve this separation, strip the contents of the dried seedpods into a paper bag and then stir or shake the contents within the bag to separate the silk and the seeds. Next, cut one of the corners off the bag to make a hole about a half-inch in diameter. Then shake the seeds out of the hole in the bag into a storage container. The seeds can be stored dry or stratified in moist potting soil in a zip lock bag in a refrigerator. For more information on the propagation of milkweeds see


11) An Invitation: Video Conference with Monarch Watch

Are you a Mac OS X user? Do you have a webcam or video camera to connect to your Mac? Do you have a broadband (cable, DSL, etc.) connection to the internet? If you answered "yes" to these three questions then you just might have all of the tools necessary to video conference with Monarch Watch!

iChatAV is Apple Computer's personal video conferencing software for OS X. We are just starting to explore the use of this technology and we have big plans for the future - we hope to connect with Monarch Watchers and provide an easy way for Monarch Watchers to connect with each other as well. So, if you have iChatAV up and running and would like to help us "practice" please drop us a line at and we will arrange a time to connect.

For more information on iChatAV visit


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