Monarch Watch Blog

Chip in for Monarch Watch 2011

2 August 2011 | Author: Jim Lovett


Monarch Watch is turning 20 and needs your help! If you are in a position to offer financial support to Monarch Watch (or if you know someone who might be), please consider making a fully tax-deductible donation of any amount during our 2011 “Chip in for Monarch Watch” fundraising campaign.

It is no secret that Monarch Watch founder and director Chip Taylor is passionate about monarchs and Monarch Watch – he is genuinely concerned about the future of the monarch migration and that of our program as well. In honor of Chip we officially launched in 2009 the now annual “Chip in for Monarch Watch” fundraising campaign – a chance for Monarch Watchers, colleagues, friends, and family across the planet to show their support for Chip and the Monarch Watch program he brought to life two decades ago.

Last year’s campaign was a huge success, raising $23,000 via nearly 500 donors – wow!

We encourage you to spend a little time reading through previous donor comments – the connections that are facilitated by monarchs and Monarch Watch are truly extraordinary.

Complete campaign details at: monarchwatch.org/chip

Thank you for your continued support!

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Monarch Population Status

2 August 2011 | Author: Chip Taylor

Monarch Watch turns 20! We started our monarch tagging program in September of 1992 – it doesn’t seem that long ago but I guess that we have been so busy that we lost track of the passing years. We began by recruiting our first taggers through notices in newspapers that called for volunteers and sending out tagging kits as fast as we could put them together. The response by the public was overwhelming and the positive feedback from the participants led to the creation of Monarch Watch, an organization we didn’t envision at the outset.

We started tagging in a down year for monarchs but we didn’t realize it then. Only later did we recognize that the dust veil created by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo had led to a significant reduction in summer temperatures and monarch numbers as well. A lot has happened since 1992. We’ve seen the overwintering population in Mexico increase each year from 1994 to 1996, only to crash inexplicably in 1997. We have seen ups and downs in overwintering numbers – but mostly downs since 2003. In fact, the population has been below the long-term average over the last seven years. Ominously, the four lowest populations recorded to date occurred in the last 11 years. The downward trend is now statistically significant (Brower, et al. 2011) and it is clear that we have entered a new era of monarch numbers.

The great migrations of the 90s are a thing of the past. In the future, we can expect overwintering populations in Mexico of 2-6 hectares. The main reason for the decline is loss of habitat. Monarch habitat has been reduced by at least 140 million acres in the last 10 years – about a fifth of the total breeding area available to monarchs has been lost. At least 100 million acres of habitat has been lost due to the adoption of herbicide resistant corn and soybeans. The herbicide tolerant (HT) crops allow growers to spray their crops with herbicides without affecting the crops. The result has been the near elimination of milkweeds in these row crops and a reduction in monarch numbers – monarch production in these fields was higher when measured in 2000 than in roadsides, old fields, conservation reserve lands and other habitats (Oberhauser, et al PNAS 2001). The adoption of HT crops began slowly in 1996 but has been increasing rapidly since 2003. By 2010 80.7% of the corn and soybeans planted in the United States (161 million acres) were herbicide tolerant. Since these crops are used in rotation, it is likely that milkweeds have been eliminated in more than 81% of the total acreage.

So, where does this leave us and what does this mean for tagging? It means that we will have another year like the last seven and a year not unlike 1992 when we started the program. Specifically, we can expect a low year, perhaps not as low as 2009 (1.92 hectares) or 2004 (2.19 hectares) but close to these numbers. The migration should be particularly low in the New England area and the numbers at Cape May will be low as well. The central region (Ontario, MI, OH, IN, IL) will see a modest migration and could produce more monarchs than the area defined by the eastern Dakotas, MN, WI, and IA. Even though the population will be down from historical highs, there will still be plenty of monarchs to tag. And, as always, you and your fellow taggers will not only have fun but you will also contribute to our knowledge of the monarch migration.

Filed under Monarch Population Status | 3 Comments »

Monarch Tagging Kits for 2011

31 July 2011 | Author: Jim Lovett

Monarch Watch Tag

Our tags for the 2011 Monarch Watch Tagging Kits arrived recently and we sent out the first batch of kits on Friday. Those of you that ordered between January 1st and June 30th of this year should receive your tags within the next few days.

If you haven’t ordered your tagging kits yet, there is still plenty of time before the migration begins – but the tags are going fast. If you would like to participate in monarch tagging this fall, please place your order for tags as soon as possible so that you don’t miss out.

Monarch Watch Tagging Kits are only shipped to areas east of the Rocky Mountains.

As usual, each tagging kit includes a set of specially manufactured monarch butterfly tags (you specify quantity), a datasheet, tagging instructions, and additional monarch / migration information. Tagging Kits for the 2011 season start at only $15 and include your choice of 25, 50, 100, 200, 300, or 500 tags.

Monarch Watch Tagging Kits and other materials (don’t forget to pick up a butterfly net!) are available via the Monarch Watch Shop online at Shop.MonarchWatch.org

HAPPY TAGGING!

Filed under Monarch Tagging | 1 Comment »

Our Amazon Earnings – 2011 Q2

17 July 2011 | Author: Jim Lovett

As you may already know, you can help support Monarch Watch with each purchase at Amazon.com and Endless.com (Amazon’s specialized Shoe and Handbag store). Monarch Watch earns a small referral fee equal to 4-15% of the item total when you use the links available on our site to visit these online stores.

In the second quarter of 2011 (Q2, April-June) 436 items were ordered in support of Monarch Watch, earning our program $628.96!

A complete list of items is available for those that are curious to see what folks are buying to support Monarch Watch. (Note: No personal information is tied to purchases; that is, we do not know who purchased the items below, only that the items were purchased via the link(s) from our site and therefore in support of our program.)

amazon stats graph

Since February 2009, 2650 items have been ordered – earning $4111.73 for Monarch Watch!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to these numbers – remember to stop by our site first whenever you shop online!

Complete details are available at monarchwatch.org/amazon

Please help us by spreading the word to friends, family, coworkers, and any other Amazon.com or Endless.com shoppers you can think of – thank you for your continued support!

Filed under amazon.com | 1 Comment »

NYTimes: In Midwest, Flutters May Be Far Fewer

12 July 2011 | Author: Jim

Today’s printed New York Times features “In Midwest, Flutters May Be Far Fewer” – an article by Andrew Pollack about monarch habitat loss and population decline. Monarch Watch Director Chip Taylor is quoted, along with other monarch researchers.

Many Monarch Watchers found this article online yesterday and commented about the featured photo – one of a Gulf Fritillary rather than a monarch. The photo has since been replaced with that of a monarch butterfly and the entire article is available online. Please take a moment to read it and then pass it on!

NYTimes.com: In Midwest, Flutters May Be Far Fewer

Filed under Monarch Conservation | 5 Comments »

Another Honeybee Swarm (video)

6 June 2011 | Author: Jim Lovett

Another swarm of several thousand honeybees settled in a bait hive outside of Monarch Watch HQ on June 6, 2011…

honeybee swarm

Filed under General | 2 Comments »

Monarch Population Status

26 April 2011 | Author: Chip Taylor

Monarch EggsI’ve been monitoring the reports of returning monarchs quite closely this spring. The pattern of the return this year is similar to that seen in 2006 but more exaggerated, with more monarchs moving into the mid latitudes (35-42N) than in any previous April (see Journey North’s first sighting reports). As I pointed out last spring on our email discussion list and in a text written for our May 2006 email update, such early arrivals at more northerly latitudes are not necessarily a good thing. If these butterflies arrive when the milkweeds are above ground and abundant followed by temperatures that allow for normal development of eggs, larvae and pupae – all is well. But, all isn’t well this year. Monarchs arrived in our area (38.97N) in good numbers on the 10th of April with egg laying noted from the 10th through the 15th with some additional eggs on the 18th and later. Milkweeds were scarce -being found in gardens, burned over areas and the edges of roads. Milkweed sprouts in fields were not up or were hidden beneath grasses and weeds. Unfortunately, the temperatures have been colder than normal and none of the hundreds of milkweed stems I’ve surveyed have shown signs of larval feeding even though most of these plants had eggs at one time. At this writing – 26 April – it appears that most of this early reproduction won’t be successful. If so, moving into the mid latitudes earlier than normal will not contribute substantially to population growth this year. In short, it would have been better had these monarchs laid these eggs further south where temperatures were more favorable for growth and development.

In addition to watching the pattern of the returning butterflies, I monitor other conditions – temperature, rainfall, drought, abundance of fire ants, etc., as they play out each month of the breeding season. As you’ve heard from me before, Texas is key. For the monarchs to have a good year, the conditions in Texas for the first generation have to be favorable. If they are, the population grows, as it did last year. If unfavorable, as they have been in a number of years such as 2004, the population declines. Conditions in Texas this spring have been hot and dry – a significant drought. Milkweeds have been abundant and nectar seems to have been available in most locations but due to high winds and temperatures monarchs just kept moving. The result is that monarchs are not off to a good start and the prospects that the population will rebound in the summer months are getting slimmer each day.

At the end of March, I was saying that the population this coming winter would be no greater than 5 hectares due to conditions in Texas. In contrast, at the end of March in 2010 it was quite clear that the population was going to increase and the only question was by how much; it more than doubled from 1.92 to 4.02. It now appears that the 5-hectare prediction was too optimistic. Four hectares (4.02 last year) is possible but not too likely. If the long-range forecasts for the northern breeding areas are accurate, and they have been recently, the prospect for producing a large monarch population in and north of the corn belt is not great. In fact, the population could drop back to 2009 numbers (1.92 hectares), if the summer is as cold as forecast.

In a week or more – weather permitting – first generation monarchs from Texas should begin migrating through this area to colonize the northern breeding areas. The numbers reaching these northern habitats is largely a function of reproduction in Texas and the weather conditions in May. Reproduction is Texas has yet to play out in numbers, but if past seasons are a good measure, the number moving northward should be less than expected based on the size of the overwintering population. Below normal temperatures are projected for May, which, if true, would limit the number of monarchs reaching the milkweed patches throughout the northern breeding area and ultimately the size of the fall migratory population. While we can hope that the long-range forecasts are wrong, and that reproduction will be higher than I’m envisioning, the prospects – at this date – favor a migration that will result in an overwintering population of 2-4 hectares.

We can’t do anything about the physical conditions that drive the monarch population but we can provide the milkweed and nectar resources they need – PLANT MILKWEED!

Filed under Monarch Population Status | 5 Comments »

Monarch Watch Tag Recovery Database Updated

22 April 2011 | Author: Jim Lovett

Nearly 4,000 records have been added to the Monarch Watch Tag Recovery database, bringing the total number of records to more than 15,000 for the 1992-2010 monarch tagging seasons.

monarch watch tags

Approximately 2500 records represent monarchs observed/recovered in the U.S. or Canada and more than 12,500 records represent monarchs recovered at the overwintering sites in Mexico.

Anyone may search the database via monarchwatch.org/recoveries

Please note that this is very much a work in progress – we working on acquiring the funding necessary to “scrub” the data (clean up any errors) and create more robust applications for searching and data visualization. Also, you will likely notice records with missing data – this is often due to taggers not returning their datasheets at the end of the tagging season. We are in the process of tracking down the missing data and will update the database as we recover the information.

If you would like to help fund this project, please see our Donation page for details about ways to give.

Filed under Monarch Tagging | 3 Comments »

Our Amazon Earnings – 2011 Q1

18 April 2011 | Author: Jim Lovett

As you may already know, you can help support Monarch Watch with each purchase at Amazon.com and Endless.com (Amazon’s specialized Shoe and Handbag store). Monarch Watch earns a small referral fee equal to 4-15% of the item total when you use the links available on our site to visit these online stores.

In the first quarter of 2011 (Q1, January-March) the following items were ordered in support of Monarch Watch:

Category # Items Referral Fees
Amazon Instant Video 1 1.50
Apparel & Accessories 1 0.68
Automotive 1 0.56
Baby 1 3.19
Beauty 11 11.80
Books 94 84.72
Computers 1 24.70
DVD 24 29.29
Electronics 31 50.50
Grocery & Gourmet Food 9 15.49
Health & Personal Care 27 34.98
Health & Personal Care Appliances 12 37.27
Home & Garden 8 10.83
Industrial & Scientific 1 1.30
Jewelry 4 6.12
Kindle eBooks 21 10.48
Kindle Hardware 3 28.50
Kitchen & Housewares 15 47.02
Magazine Subscriptions 2 1.82
MP3 Downloads 11 1.20
Music 17 11.96
Office Products 7 6.95
Other 4 7.28
Pet Supplies 14 15.25
Shoes 6 34.30
Software 3 10.20
Sports & Outdoors 7 12.04
Tools & Hardware 17 30.80
Toys & Games 8 9.61
VHS 1 0.65
Video Games 4 7.31
Total 336 $548.30

A complete list of items is available for those that are curious.

amazon stats graph

Since February 2009: 2214 items ordered and $3482.77 for Monarch Watch!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to these numbers – remember to stop by our site first whenever you shop online!

Complete details are available at monarchwatch.org/amazon

Please help us by spreading the word to friends, family, coworkers, and any other Amazon.com or Endless.com shoppers you can think of – thank you for your continued support!

Filed under amazon.com | No Comments »

Capturing a Honeybee Swarm (video)

13 April 2011 | Author: Jim Lovett

A swarm of several thousand honeybees settled in a tree outside of Monarch Watch HQ on April 11, 2011 – they’re not our bees (at least not the bees we have in our building) so we’re not sure where they came from :-)

honeybee swarm

Filed under General | 9 Comments »