Monarch Watch Update - February 21, 2005



1) Status of the Population

2) News from Mexico

3) Western Monarchs

4) Tag Recoveries

5) Tag Recovery Fund

6) Monarch Watch Shop - New Items

7) Monarchs on the Radio

8) Snow on the Milkweed

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) Status of the Population

The overwintering monarch colonies have been measured and the news is bad. In aggregate, the colonies only measure 2.19 hectares. This is the all time low recorded since the monarch overwintering areas became known to science in 1975. This year the colonies were measured by Eduardo Rendon and his crew in a program supported by World Wildlife Fund Mexico. All of the most commonly occupied overwintering sites, both within and outside the Reserve, were visited in December and January. The exact location for each colony was established and the number of trees occupied by monarchs was counted. The area with monarch-covered trees was measured as a series of polygons that were then added together to arrive at the total area for each colony. There were no new colony sites and all the colonies had low numbers. The largest population, 1.3 hectares (59% of the total), was found at El Rosario, the site most often visited by tourists.

In an effort to provide an explanation of the low numbers of monarchs to the authorities in Mexico and the public, Dr. Lincoln Brower of Sweetbriar College in Virginia took the lead in enlisting a group of monarch scientists to draft a report summarizing the available evidence pertaining to the decline in numbers. Unfortunately, this report was prematurely circulated, resulting in a strong reaction by Mexican authorities as reported in a widely distributed article by Associated Press reporter Mark Stevenson.

This article is available at a number of sites including The Brower, et al. report puts most of the blame for the low numbers of monarchs this year on the loss of monarchs due to the winter storms in early 2004, the low numbers of monarchs in the spring migration, and the extremely cold summer but also points to the ongoing degradation of the forests and the extensive illegal logging in several of the core areas of the Reserve. See “News from Mexico” below for the updated report in its entirety.

We dealt with the potential impact of the cold summer on monarch populations last month As time permits, we will add more information on the impact of temperatures on monarch populations in these Updates.

The good news, if there is any, is that this winter has been favorable for the overwintering monarchs. The worst of the winter is over but killing storms have been known to occur as late as the first week of March. If there are no storms or other factors that reduce the population, the number of butterflies surviving the winter should be sufficient to colonize most of the northern areas this spring and summer. Although, the number of surviving monarchs is likely to be an historical low, the numbers may be similar to the low numbers following the winters of 2000-2001, when the initial population of 2.83 hectares was devastated by late winter storms, and 2001-2002, when a January storm reduced the population to the 2 hectare range.


2) News from Mexico

The big news from Mexico concerns the size of the overwintering population. These data were made available on 14 February on the World Wildlife Fund Mexico web site ( Once again we are indebted to Carol Cullar, Executive Director, Rio Bravo Nature Center Foundation, Inc. of Eagle Pass TX, for translating the explanatory text that accompanied the data on colony sizes.

The English translation is available here as a PDF file (9 pages, 299K):

Note: The graph of the sizes of the overwintering populations over the years shows the population to be 3.83 hectares for the winter of 00-01. I believe this is in error due to a typo in the annual report for that year. If this interpretation is correct, the number should be 2.83 hectares.


The Brower, et al. report “Reduced numbers of monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico during the 2004-2005 season: evidence, possible causes and recommendations” is available here as a PDF file (14 pages, 128K):


In recent weeks Mexican newspapers have contained numerous accounts of the success of the government in controlling illegal activities in a number of sensitive areas. Here is an announcement concerning the Monarch Biosphere Reserve translated by Carol Cullar.


PROFEPA.- In a press conference, Spokesperson José Luis Luege Tamargo, announced that illegal logging in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, diminished by 100 percent, as a result of the Permanent Vigilance Campaign in that zone, and by 85% in the adjacent areas. Likewise, the traffic of illegal wood products was reduced to zero in the municipalities of Angangueo, Senguio, Ocampo and Tlalpujahua, while the sale of forest products enlarged in the region, where the local commerce of legal wood reappeared and, even, its price was increased by 50%.

These results are supported in the strategy to promote tourist activities, the payments by environmental services through the CONAFOR, the establishment of firebreak gaps, the battling of pests and fires, and the stimulation of authorized forest development. The operations in the Monarch Butterfly Preserve will be maintained in a permanent manner, with the support of the Federal Preventive Police and of local residents and coop members.


Research Trip
Last month I asked Dr. Lincoln Brower if he would contribute a text describing his recent research trip to the monarch overwintering area. Unfortunately, his text arrived just a bit too late for us to include it in the January Update. The trip was made before the colonies were measured so the area estimates given in the text were “seat of the pants” estimates. Dr. Brower has a good eye for the size of the colonies since his estimates were close to those subsequently measured by Eduardo Rendon and his crew. The report gives a good sense of the kinds of monitoring required to assure the continuation of the forests and the monarch colonies.

Research visit to Mexico, 22 November 8 December 2004. Lincoln P. Brower, Sweet Briar College, Sweet Briar, VA and Dan Slayback, Science Systems and Applications, Inc., NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD.

14 January 2005

Lincoln Brower and his colleague from NASA, Dan Slayback, flew to Mexico on 22 November - 8 December 2004 to begin a research collaboration with Dr. Isabel Ramirez and her student, Ivan Limon from the University of Mexico, and also, with Dr. Stuart Weiss from Menlo Park, CA. The purpose of our trip was twofold: to initiate a major microclimate study of the monarch butterfly overwintering sites, and also to carry out an aerial reconnaissance program. For the first project, we visited the Chincua, Rosario and Pelon overwintering areas. The Chincua colony, located this year again at the head of Zapatero Creek near the Llanos de los Toros, is very small, probably less than 0.5 hectares in size. A second smaller colony on Chincua that apparently formed at the top of Arroyo Hondo (over the ridge above the tourist reception area) apparently deserted the trees and joined up with the Zapatero Colony. One small and one larger colony (perhaps 1.5 hectares in size) were present in the Rosario area, both on the northeast side of Llanos de los Conejos, near to where the colony formed during the 2003 -2004 overwintering season. Dr. Ramirez found that the Pelon colony is also small this year. Eduardo Rendon, working with World Wildlife Fund - Mexico, is conducting a major colony monitoring program, so we should have detailed information on the sizes of all the known colonies before long. Preliminary information indicates that the total area occupied by monarch this year is small, as was suggested by the fall 2004 reports on Monarch Watch and Journey North. These data indicated a weak migration throughout most of the eastern USA. Dick Walton and Brower’s monitoring program also found that the fall migration through, Cape May New Jersey had the lowest numbers in the past 13 years.

The second purpose of our trip was to join up with LightHawk pilot, Chuck Schroll, who flew us over the overwintering areas from 1- 5 December 2004. Our goal was to conduct a comprehensive survey of the known and major potential monarch overwintering areas in the massifs bordering the states of Michoacan and Mexico in central Mexico. We wanted to visually identify new, previously unreported colonies in these mountains, in order to compare them with the known colony locations. Since much of the area is rugged and inaccessible, we predicted that we would locate several new colonies. To keep track of where we were, we used a Garmin Global Positioning GPS unit to track all flights. We synchronized our digital camera's clock to the GPS clock, so that from any pictures taken, we could later determine where the plane was at that moment, thus giving us an approximate map location of each point of interest.

In order to cover the entire area, we used topographic maps to define each day's flight plan. Due to the high relief (at 10,000 to 11,00 feet altitude), and the need to fly at a relatively low elevation (at about a very exciting 500 feet above the canopy cover), we were not initially certain what an optimal flight path would be. After the first two days, we developed a fairly good routine and were able to effectively communicate our immediate needs with Chuck who was spectacularly competent at flying his Maule single engine aircraft. Unfortunately weather conditions were much moister than usual at this time of the dry season, with a thick haze in the skies every day, and partly cloudy conditions on most days. As a result, we were generally unable to fly after about noon or 1 pm – the time of day the monarchs would be most active.

Over the course of the 5 days of flights, we comprehensively surveyed the massifs of: Chincua, Campanario, and Chivati-Huacal. We also covered most of Pelon, although cloudy conditions near the peak prevented us from seeing the one known colony. We also surveyed outlying massifs, where colonies have been sighted in some years: Palomas, Oxtotilpan, Herrada, Altamirano, Cedral, San Andres, and Mil Cumbres. These surveys were often less extensive, but we nevertheless sighted monarchs on most of the massifs.

Sighting the monarch colonies was tricky because the less than optimal weather conditions limited visibility and flying time. In addition, the small fall migration resulted in fewer monarchs than normal, and it appeared that most had not yet fully consolidated. Nevertheless, we were able to see blizzards of monarch flying through the trees, which usually meant a colony within a kilometer or so. We saw these flying monarchs on the following massifs: Chincua, Campanario, Pelon, Palomas, Herrada, Oxtotilpan, San Andres, and Mil Cumbres. Some of the areas on Campanario were inaccessible from the ground due to the local politics and nearby illegal logging, so it was particularly important to find butterflies in that region. We did not see any butterflies on the following massifs: Chivati-Huacal, Altamirano, Cedral, or along the entire eastern side of the main Campanario-Chincua massif.

Overall, the flights were a great success, as it was the first-ever comprehensive survey of these mountains indicating that monarch colonies had formed or were forming in most of the historically-used locations that continue to retain suitable forest cover. Illegal logging is extensive in the area and we are in the process of quantifying it. We did see formed colonies on Chincua, Campanario, Herrada, and Palomas. It is clear that aerial reconnaissance is a successful monitoring tool, and we are extremely grateful to LightHawk and Chuck Schroll for making the flights.


3) Western Monarchs

We have two texts this month that deal with western monarchs. The first is an article by Shawna Stevens and Dennis Frey that describes Monarch Alert and the abundance of western monarchs. The second provides details on the upcoming monarch meeting held in conjunction with the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America organized by Dr. David James with assistance from Mia Monroe.

Project Monarch Alert and a Report on Western Monarch Abundance

Shawna Stevens & Dennis Frey

Biological Sciences Department
California Polytechnic State University
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407

Monarch Alert is the project name for a series of studies conducted since 2002 by us (Cal Poly State University research team). Some of the work is done with associates from the Ventana Wilderness Society. These studies deal with fall migration, wintering activity, and spring dispersal of monarchs in western North America. The project has been generously supported by Helen I. Johnson, Salinas, California, citizen scientist and monarch advocate. We study monarchs at several spatial and temporal scales that range from tracking movements of tagged individuals at local winter habitats to analyzing the system wide patterns of the western wintering population over the past eight years. Most of our work this season is being conducted in coastal San Luis Obispo and Monterey Counties, located approximately in the center of the western wintering range. In addition, we have coordinated and conducted annual western monarch Thanksgiving Counts in these two counties for the past several seasons. During the 2002-2003 season we tagged over 20,000 monarchs in four coastal counties with tags similar to those used by the Monarch Watch’s fall migration program. Our tags list a toll-free telephone number and a unique identification code. In this study we depend upon citizen scientists to report the location of dispersing monarchs that they encounter. We will soon begin tagging 5,000 individuals to track the dispersal of the current season’s monarchs. As reported here previously (Monarch Watch Update - July 23, 2004), one of our western monarchs tagged in fall 2002 was called in to us after being found in a garden in Pueblo, Colorado on April 2003, a distance of over 1400 kilometers and located east of the Continental Divide. At a smaller scale, i.e., during the wintering period, monarch movement was limited to nearby sites and none of our tagged butterflies moved up or down the coast between counties. Our weekly monitoring program of 16 habitats in San Luis Obispo and Monterey Counties has helped us to discover factors associated with spring dispersal, as well as local changes in habitat use that often precede dispersal. Monarchs initiated dispersal or shifted core roosting areas by switching to different species of roosting trees after two to three days of weather that was warmer and drier than normal. A goal of Monarch Alert is to provide data that will aid in the development of conservation strategies that protect this valuable natural resource.

We are able to make preliminary estimates of the size of this season’s western monarch wintering population. By early November we believed that the population was approximately the same size as last season’s. Six of the Monarch Alert focal sites in San Luis Obispo and Monterey Counties had larger populations than last year, eight sites had fewer individuals and the remaining two had essentially the same size population. Total abundance for the habitats in these two counties was 5% larger than last season at a comparable period. However, Thanksgiving counts made a few weeks later for all of San Luis Obispo County’s 28 monarch habitats indicated that abundance was less than last season as only six sites were larger than last season, while 12 habitats had fewer monarchs present. Counts for the remaining habitats were either similar to last season’s or the data has not yet been processed. Our most recent round of Monarch Alert site surveys from early January also corroborate the above findings that abundance on the California central coast is slightly less than last season. The recent series of severe Pacific storms may account for part of the recent decline in abundance from earlier in the season at some of these habitats. Overall, the two county abundance is approximately 11% less than at a comparable time in the season last year.


(Presented by the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America)
Wednesday March 2 2005 (8am-12pm)
The Chapel, Asilomar Conference Grounds, Pacific Grove, CA.

Attached you will find a list of speakers and the program schedule for the symposium "Biology and Conservation of the Monarch Butterfly" which will be held in the Chapel at the Asilomar Conference Grounds, Pacific Grove, CA on Wednesday morning March 2 2005. This symposium will be the most significant gathering of Monarch butterfly scientists since 2001 and takes place close to one of California's best known locations for overwintering populations of Danaus plexippus. The calibre of scientists assembled for this symposium is exceptional and much new and exciting data on both eastern and western Monarch populations will be presented.

The free symposium will be held as part of the Annual Meeting of the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America (PBESA) which attracts professional and student entomologists from all over the Western United States (visit for more details on the PBESA meeting. Please note, if you plan to attend non-Monarch sessions, registration is required). As well as providing a forum for presentation and dissemination of new data on the biology and conservation of this notable insect, the symposium and ancillary events (see below) will highlight the roles professional and citizen scientists alike are playing, and can play, in understanding and protecting Monarch butterflies for future generations. The recently proclaimed Western Monarch Day in California is this coming Saturday February 5th and the current heightened public awareness of this spectacular insect should ensure considerable interest in the events which will take place in Pacific Grove during February 27- March 2.

Monarch activities at Pacific Grove will commence on Monday evening 28 February, with a welcome reception held at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, hosted by the museum and the locally-based 'Friends of the Monarchs'. On Tuesday afternoon, March 1, we hope to visit one of Pacific Grove's Monarch overwintering sites to see the mating frenzy and dispersal of butterflies that should be occuring at that time.

Later on Tuesday we invite you to attend "An Evening with Monarchs and Other Friends" to be held in the Fred Farr Forum at the Asilomar Conference Grounds. Here, you will be able to view Monarch exhibits and demonstrations, mingle with fellow Monarch Friends and hear the music of the The 5Ms Band (The Mostly Mediocre Musical Monarch Mariposas) who specialize in songs about Monarchs! Speakers and their topics for the evening include RO VACCARO: Pacific Grove according to the Butterfly Lady, JOHN DAYTON: What Makes a California Overwintering Site and What Citizens Can do to Maintain Their Function, KAREN OBERHAUSER: Monarchs in the Classroom, the Monarch Larval Monitoring Program and the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary Foundation, and CHIP TAYLOR: Monarch Waystations: Creating Habitats for Migratory Monarchs.
The entire evening will be free and open to all friends!

We hope you will join us in Pacific Grove for what should be a highly informative and entertaining experience. No registration is required; simply turn up at the events! Please pass this message on to other people you think may be interested and direct any questions to me at

Dr David G. James
Department of Entomology,
Washington State University,
Irrigated Agriculture Research and
Extension Center, 24106 North Bunn
Road, Prosser, Washington 99350

Speakers/Titles for the Symposium "Biology and Conservation of the Monarch Butterfly"
(as at 1 February 2005)

Introduction 8.00-8.05: David G. James

1. 8.05-8.25 Robert M. Pyle, Grays River, Washington.
"Chasing Western Monarchs: New Views on Migration Routes”

2. 8.25-8.45 Kingston Leong, Biological Sciences Department, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California.
"Development of Protocols for Long Term Habitat Management of Overwintering Monarch Butterfly Sites in California"

3. 8.45-9.05 Dennis Frey and Shawna Stevens, Biological Sciences Department, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California.
"Project Monarch Alert: Studies of Population Dynamics in Western North America"

4. 9.05-9.25 Shawna Stevens, Biological Sciences Department, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California.
“Using climate patterns to study the local recruitment hypothesis”

5. 9.25-9.40 Nelli Thorngate and Jessica Griffiths, Big Sur Ornithology Laboratory, Ventana Wilderness Society, Monterey, California.
"Patterns of habitat use by overwintering Monarch butterflies in Monterey County, California"
6. 9.40-10.00 Orley R. 'Chip' Taylor, Monarch Watch, Entomology Program, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.
"Monarch tagging: What tag recoveries tell us about the migration”

BREAK 10.00-10.15

7. 10.15-10.30 Andrew K. Davis, Department of Environmental Studies, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.
"New Perspectives on Migration in Monarch Butterflies: Insights from Long-term Monitoring and Citizen Science"

8. 10.30-10.50 Lincoln P. Brower, Linda S. Fink, Daniel E. Slayback, David Perault, Department of Biology, Sweet Briar College, Sweet Briar, Virginia.
“Deterioration of the prime overwintering habitat in the Monarch butterfly biosphere reserve in Mexico”

9. 10.50-11.05 Daniel Slayback, Isabel Ramirez, Lincoln P. Brower, david Perault, Linda S. Fink. Science Systems and Applications, Inc. Biospheric Sciences Branch, Code 923, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD 20771 “A remote-sensing overview of forest cover change in the monarch butterfly overwintering region in Mexico"
10. 11.05-11.20 Stuart Weiss, Creekside Center for Earth Observations, Menlo Park, California.
"Designing the forest with the trees: Quantitative assessment of forest structure for overwintering monarch butterflies”

11. 11.20-11.40 Sonia M. Altizer, Department of Environmental Studies, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.
"Monarch Butterflies in Changing Environments: Parasites, Migration and Phenotypic Variation"

12. 11.40-12.00 Karen S. Oberhauser, R. Batalden and A.T. Petersen, Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, University of Minnesota, St Paul, Minnesota. "Potential effects of climate change on eastern North American monarch butterfly populations”


4) Tag Recoveries

A number of people who have visited the monarch overwintering sites have purchased tags in our behalf. Thus far, we have received about 300 tags and we are just beginning to process these tags. If you have not yet returned your datasheets please do so ASAP to prevent further delays in completing the recovery records.

One tagged monarch (EGG 372) found roosting in a cluster on 12/29/04 at Chincua by Amy Alstad (Karen Oberhauser’s daughter) and Richard Smith (Richard is with ABC Australia) was tagged by Dave Bowman and his students at Carroll Middle School in Carroll, IA. We wish to thank everyone who has been kind enough to purchase tags for us.

Unfortunately, counterfeit tags have appeared again. These tags are carry-overs from the counterfeit tag episode we experienced three years ago. The tags are in the A series and most are ADF. Please do not purchase tags in this series or, if in doubt, any tags in the A series. A genuine and a fake tag are displayed below. Note the many differences in the fonts of the two tags:


5) Tag Recovery Fund

We will be going to Mexico soon to buy tags and need your help. 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. 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.


6) Monarch Watch Shop - New Items

We are always looking for new monarch/nature related items to add to our online store – remember, all sales support Monarch Watch’s efforts in education, conservation and research. If you have suggestions for items you would like to see available at the Monarch Watch Shop please feel free to drop us a line anytime! Here is a short list of items we’ve recently added:

PotMaker -

PotMaker makes biodegradable plant pots from strips of old newspaper. The pots are ideal for starting young plants, seedlings or cuttings. PotMaker is easy to use - with just a twist of the wrist anyone can make pots, even a child. PotMaker helps recycle newspaper and provides an earth-friendly and inexpensive alternative to plastic garden pots.

Orchard Mason Bee Nesting Block -

Your garden needs pollinators and most pollinators are relatively small solitary bees that nest in stems or in the ground. This wooden nesting block is designed to attract stem-nesting bees such as Mason Bees, Horn-faced Bees and others. These bees are efficient pollinators, interesting to observe, and are not defensive (will not sting unless handled). This nesting block adds educational value to your garden and allows you to teach others about the value of pollinators. An overhanging roof protects the nest holes (5/16" in diameter and approximately 3.5" inches deep); block can be used for many years.

In case you missed the announcement of new tagging kits for this year be sure to check out the details at:


7) Monarchs on the Radio

This past month National Public Radio (NPR) featured two stories on monarchs. The first story reported by Lourdes Garcia-Navarro featured interviews of vendors and residents at El Rosario. Most of the story dealt with the nature of the economics of the tourism associated with monarchs and the difficulty of making a living in the vicinity of the reserve. The story prompted the following response from Drs. Lincoln Brower and Linda Fink:

Dear NPR:
The National Public Radio story (morning news, 4 February 2005) on the economics of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Mexico implied that seasonal ecotourism provides the only forest-based income for the local communities (called ejidos). The story failed to mention an ongoing initiative that addresses the loss of income due to the prohibition on logging in the Reserve. In 2000, the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature, in cooperation with World Wildlife Fund-Mexico and Mexican government entities, established a multimillion dollar fund, the interest of which is being used to purchase logging rights from Ejido communities. Thirty-one of 38 ejidos with forests inside the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve are currently receiving income for conserving their forests.

Lincoln Brower and Linda Fink

You can hear this story at: Click on “Listen” to get an audio version of this story.

The second story on the 14th of February on “All Things Considered” dealt with Ro Vaccaro the well-known Monarch Lady of Pacific Grove, one of the well-known monarch overwintering sites along coastal California. You can hear:
“A Woman's Metamorphosis into the 'Butterfly Lady'” at


8) Snow on the Milkweed

Most years have unusual weather events and 2004 certainly had its share. Among the strange happenings was a snowstorm in South Texas on Christmas Eve and the morning of Christmas day. This snowfall was the first white Christmas for the Rio Grand Valley in 150 years of record keeping. Snow and freezing temperatures are rare for this region but happen from time to time. Bob Stell of Mission, Texas, which received about 3.5 inches of snow, sent us photos of snow on his patch of Asclepias curassavica (1st photo). Bob had been following the development of a number of monarch larvae in the patch. He brought some of the larvae inside on Christmas day to make sure they survived the 27 degree temperatures. Other larvae were left on their own and probably survived. The milkweed on the other hand looked a bit worse for ware after the frost (2nd image).


For more detail on this event, including eye-opening snowfall amounts of up to 13 inches, see


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