Monarch Watch Blog

Invitation to Monarch Watch 30-year events

5 August 2022 | Author: Jim Lovett

Come celebrate 30 years of Monarch Watch with us in Lawrence, Kansas! We are planning special events for September 15-17, 2022 and hope you will join us. Space is limited, so please reserve your place as soon as possible. Event registration will close when capacity is reached or at the latest, August 18th. Complete event, location, hotel, travel, ticketing and RSVP details (everything you need to know to plan your visit) are now available online at the link below.

Monarch Watch 30-year events: monarchwatch.org/events

Here is a quick overview of what we have planned:

Thursday, September 15 – Banquet
Join us for a banquet and program highlighting 30 years of Monarch Watch. There will be ample opportunity to socialize with Chip, fellow monarch enthusiasts and Monarch Watch staff. $60/person

Friday, September 16 – Symposium & Evening in the Garden
Attend a monarch update symposium, enjoy a boxed lunch with participants and engage in discussion. $15/person

Later, have a relaxing stroll through Monarch Waystation #1 where Monarch Watch staff and Douglas Co. Extension Master Gardeners will be available to answer questions. Free event.

Saturday, September 17 – Monarch Tagging
We will provide tags, nets, and instruction then send you out into the wetlands to tag some wild monarchs as they migrate through the area. The Baker Wetlands encompasses 927 acres of rich, natural wildlife and is one of the most diverse habitats in Kansas. Free event.

There are also a number of monarch-related activities going on in Lawrence throughout September and we will post details at monarchwatch.org/events once we have them.

We hope you can join us for one or all of the events but if you can’t, we plan to share them with you through photos, video, and maybe even some livestreaming so be sure to check the event page in the coming weeks!

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Monarch Watch Update July 2022

28 July 2022 | Author: Jim Lovett

This newsletter was recently sent via email to those who subscribe to our email updates. If you would like to receive periodic email updates from Monarch Watch, please take a moment to complete and submit the short form at monarchwatch.org/subscribe/

Greetings, Monarch Watchers.

It is with heavy hearts that we start this month’s communication by sharing this tragic news with the Monarch Watch community:

Three family members, formerly of Lawrence, killed in ‘senseless’ shooting in Iowa
https://lawrencekstimes.com/2022/07/23/schmidt-family-killed-iowa-shooting

Sarah worked for Monarch Watch in the early 2000s and she and Tyler both contributed greatly to Monarch Watch’s development and continuation. We are absolutely shocked by this horrific act of violence. Our thoughts are with all of Sarah’s family members as they try to move forward during this unimaginably difficult time. A GoFundMe campaign has been set up for her 9-year-old son who survived the attack.

Included in this issue:
1. Monarch Population Status
2. Monarch Watch Tagging Kits for 2022
3. Submitting Tag Data
4. Tagging Wild and Reared Monarchs
5. Monarch Waystations
6. Monarch Calendar Project
7. Upcoming Monarch Watch Events
8. IUCN Red Listing of Monarchs
9. About This Monarch Watch List

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1. Monarch Population Status
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Each year at this time I summarize what I know about how the monarch population is developing. The idea is to give taggers a heads-up about what to expect during the migration. The trouble with this exercise is that the available data are often contradictory (like this year) and there never seem to be a sufficient number of observations. Also, there is often a lull in monarch activity in early July which can be misleading and critical weather information, particularly temperature summaries, needed to assess population growth can also be lagging. Ok, that sums up my excuses. Here is what I do know, based on first sightings reported to Journey North and temperatures from 8 Tempest weather stations scattered from eastern North Dakota to central Ohio.

The monarchs returning from the overwintering sites in Mexico arrived in Texas in noticeable numbers between 11-15 March which fits with the long-term pattern of arrivals. The numbers reported were somewhat lower than last year but average for the last 5 years. I was a bit concerned about the returning numbers at the time, but the overall timing and numbers reported suggested the population was off to a fairly good start.

I next focused on the timing and number of first-generation monarchs moving north out of Texas in May. The first two weeks of May can be a low period for first sightings, but there was a surge of these in the central part of the Midwest from about 10-20 May. That was something to cheer about since that push northward, aided by strong SW winds, was a sign that the population in the Upper Midwest would be off to an early start. But that was not to be. A week of cooler, less favorable, weather followed in many areas. In fact, there were large areas in the eastern Midwest where the cooler weather lasted for three weeks, substantially slowing population development. Added to these conditions, the total number of first sightings in the Upper Midwest was the lowest since 2019 and strikingly low for the area from Madison, WI to the central Dakotas (90-100W longitudes). It is this region that is best represented by tag recoveries in Mexico. Together, delayed development and lower-than-average numbers suggest that the migration in the Midwest will be lower than average in late August and September. It will also be later, which will enable taggers to in many areas to tag monarchs well into September in the north and October in the south.

While the peak colonization of the area from the mid Dakotas (100W) to western Pennsylvania (80W) occurred from 11-20 May, colonization to the east (80-60W) peaked from 21-30 May. The difference in timing between the Midwest and East was unlike any record in the past for May. In addition, the numbers reported in the east were the highest in the 22-year record. These reports amounted to 38% of all sightings. The numbers included 30 sightings in the Maritime provinces – almost double the previous high (17) for that region. The record of colonization in the east may or may not signal a larger than average migration in the east; it is simply too early to tell. But, like the Midwest, it seems likely that the migration will be late and offer an opportunity for tagging well into September and early October along the eastern monarch flyways.

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2. Monarch Watch Tagging Kits for 2022
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Monarch tagging continues to be an important tool to help us understand the monarch migration and annual cycle – a long-term record is crucial to understand the dynamics of such complex natural phenomena. Tags for the 2022 fall tagging season are available and we have started shipping preorders out this week, ahead of the migration in your area. If you would like to tag monarchs this year, please order your tags soon! Tagging Kits ordered now should arrive within 10–14 days but priority will be given to preorders and areas that will experience the migration first.

Monarch Watch Tagging Kits are only shipped to areas east of the Rocky Mountains. Each tagging kit includes a set of specially manufactured monarch butterfly tags (you specify quantity), a data sheet, tagging instructions, and additional monarch / migration information. Tagging Kits for the 2022 season start at only $15 and include your choice of 25, 50, 100, 200, or 500 tags.

Monarch Watch Tagging Kits and other materials (don’t forget a net!) are available via the Monarch Watch Shop online at shop.monarchwatch.org – where each purchase helps support Monarch Watch.

2022 datasheets and instructions are available online via the Monarch Tagging Program page at monarchwatch.org/tagging

Tagging should begin in early to mid-August north of 45N latitude (e.g. Minneapolis), late August at other locations north of 35N (e.g., Oklahoma City, Fort Smith, Memphis, Charlotte) and in September and early October in areas south of 35N latitude. See a map and tables with expected peak migration dates and suggested dates to begin tagging on the Monarch Tagging Program page at the link above.

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3. Submitting Tag Data
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Thousands of you have submitted your 2021 season tag data to us by mail or via our online submission form – thank you! We are still receiving data sheets and if you haven’t submitted your data yet (for 2021 or even previous years) it is not too late. Please review the “Submitting Your Tagging Data” information on the tagging program page then send us your data via the Tagging Data Submission Form.

Complete information is available at monarchwatch.org/tagging if you have questions about submitting your data to us and we have conveniently placed a large “Submit Your Tagging Data” button on our homepage at monarchwatch.org that will take you directly to the online form.

There you can upload your data sheets as an Excel or other spreadsheet file (PREFERRED; download a template file from monarchwatch.org/tagging) or a PDF/image file (scan or photo).

If you have any questions about getting your data to us, please feel free to drop Jim a line anytime via JLOVETT@KU.EDU

Coming Soon: we plan to have the Monarch Watch mobile app available in the App Store (Apple iOS) and Google Play (Android) in August which will allow you to record and submit your tag data, report recoveries of tagged monarchs, participate in the Monarch Calendar program, and more! We will announce the app via social media and you can keep checking our site for updates at monarchwatch.org/app

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4. Tagging Wild and Reared Monarchs
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As a reminder, the following is an abbreviated version of our “Tagging wild and reared monarchs: Best practices” article posted to our Blog in 2019. The complete text of the article is available via the link below.

Diving into the tagging data has revealed a number of surprises such as the difference between the probability that a reared monarch will reach Mexico and the probability that a wild–tagged monarch will do so. The recovery rate is higher for wild–caught monarchs (0.9% vs 0.5%) and it is the data from the wild–caught butterflies that tell us the most about the migration. Frankly, for some analyses, we have to set the reared monarch data aside. That doesn’t mean it is not valuable, but its uses are limited.

It should be noted that for tagging data purposes, monarchs captured as adult butterflies should be reported as WILD and adult monarchs reared from the egg, larva, or pupa stage should be considered REARED.

TAGGING WILD-CAUGHT MONARCHS
For wild-caught monarchs we need to:
1. increase the number of taggers from western Minnesota and Iowa westward into Nebraska and the Dakotas to give us a more complete understanding of dynamics of the migration;

2. increase the number of wild monarchs that are tagged since these provide the most valuable data; and

3. increase the number of taggers who tag from the beginning of the tagging season in early August until the migration ends. Tagging records for the entire season will help us establish the proportion of the late–season monarchs that reach the overwintering sites. When tagging wild–caught monarchs, many taggers run out of tags well before the season ends. That’s great, but it would help us to know when all tags had been used by indicating this via the online tagging data submission form.

TAGGING REARED MONARCHS
Reared butterflies tend to average smaller than wild migrants. That difference can be reduced significantly if careful attention is given to rearing larvae under the best possible conditions. Large monarchs have the best chance of reaching Mexico, surviving the winter and reproducing in Texas. There are several reasons for this: better glide ratio, better lift with cross or quartering winds, larger fat bodies, more resistance to stress, etc. There are very few small monarchs among those that return in the spring. For those of you who prefer to rear, tag and release, we have a few suggestions:

1. Rear larvae under the most natural conditions possible.

2. Provide an abundance of living or fresh-picked and sanitized foliage to larvae.

3. Provide clean rearing conditions.

4. Plan the rearing so that the newly-emerged monarchs can be tagged early in the migratory season (10 days before to 10 days after the expected date of arrival of the leading edge of the migration in your area).

5. Tag the butterflies once the wings have hardened and release them the day after emergence if possible.

6. When it comes to tagging, tag only the largest and most-fit monarchs (see complete article for some guidelines). Records of tags applied to monarchs that have little chance of reaching Mexico add to the mass of tagging data, but do not help us learn which monarchs reach Mexico – unless the measurements, weight and condition of every monarch tagged and released is recorded. There are a few taggers who keep such detailed records and those data can be very informative. If you collect such data and are willing to share it please contact us; do not add this information to the standard tagging data sheet.

As a final note, this text is not a directive. We are not telling you what to do; rather, we are simply providing suggestions that may lead to more successful rearing and tagging efforts. The expanded version of this article is available at

Tagging wild and reared monarchs: Best practicesmonarchwatch.org/blog/tagging-best-practices

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5. Monarch Waystations
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To offset the loss of milkweeds and nectar sources we need to create, conserve, and protect monarch butterfly habitats. You can help by creating “Monarch Waystations” in home gardens, at schools, businesses, parks, zoos, nature centers, along roadsides, and on other unused plots of land. Creating a Monarch Waystation can be as simple as adding milkweeds and nectar sources to existing gardens or maintaining natural habitats with milkweeds. No effort is too small to have a positive impact.

Have you created a habitat for monarchs and other wildlife? If so, help support our conservation efforts by registering your habitat as an official Monarch Waystation today!

monarchwatch.org/waystations

A quick online application will register your site and your habitat will be added to the online registry. You will receive a certificate bearing your name and your habitat’s ID that can be used to look up its record. You may also choose to purchase a metal sign to display in your habitat to encourage others to get involved in monarch conservation.

As of 5 July 2022, there have been 39,570 Monarch Waystation habitats registered with Monarch Watch! Texas holds the #1 spot with 3,338 habitats and Illinois (3,046), Michigan (2,901), California (2,516), Ohio (2,073), Florida (2,010), Virginia (1,754), Wisconsin (1,712), Pennsylvania (1,705) and Ontario (1,281) round out the top ten.

You can view the complete listing and a map of approximate locations via monarchwatch.org/waystations/registry

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6. Monarch Calendar Project
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For those of you participating in our Monarch Calendar project for 2022 (complete details and short registration form at monarchwatch.org/calendar), observation Period 1 has ended (the final date being June 20th, for those of you north of 35N). Once you have logged all of your observations using whatever format works for you (spreadsheet, notebook, calendar, etc.), please use the appropriate online form to submit your data to us:

2022 Period 1 Submission Forms:

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SOUTH (latitude less than 35N)
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Form for Period 1 (15 March – 30 April): forms.gle/fp7P1QM38CyCWWWa8

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NORTH (latitude greater than 35N)
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Form for Period 1 (1 April – 20 June): forms.gle/7FfUaywratxLbG7u5

The second observation period runs from 15 July–20 August in the North and 1 August–25 September in the South. As soon as the fall period ends for all locations we will send out links for submission of that data to all who have registered.

Again, complete details and a link to the short registration form are available at monarchwatch.org/calendar

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7. Upcoming Monarch Watch Events
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Monarch Watch Tagging Event (Free event)
Saturday, September 17, 2022
Baker Wetlands Discovery Center
Lawrence, Kansas
monarchwatch.org/tag-event

We have other events we are planning for the fall and will announce soon. Stay tuned!

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8. IUCN Red Listing of Monarchs
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The recent news about the IUCN’s Red List does not change the status of monarchs in the U.S.

In a December 15, 2020 press release, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its decision with respect to the petition to declare the monarch a “threatened” species under the Endangered Species Act:

“After a thorough assessment of the monarch butterfly’s status, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has found that adding the monarch butterfly to the list of threatened and endangered species is warranted but precluded by work on higher-priority listing actions. With this decision, the monarch becomes a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and its status will be reviewed each year until it is no longer a candidate.”

Upon that announcement, we wrote that the “warranted but precluded” decision for monarchs is the right one at this time. It acknowledges the need for continued vigilance due to the numerous threats to the population while emphasizing the need to continue support for programs that create and sustain habitats for monarchs. It also should be clear that it is the North American monarch migration that is threatened and not the species, which is widely distributed in the Americas and elsewhere.

Please see our full response to this posted via our blog in 2020 at monarchwatch.org/blog/2020/12/15/esa-listing-decision-for-the-monarch/

Thank you for your interest and concern!

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9. About This Monarch Watch List
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Monarch Watch ( https://monarchwatch.org ) is a nonprofit education, conservation, and research program affiliated with the Kansas Biological Survey & Center for Ecological Research at the University of Kansas. The program strives to provide the public with information about the biology of monarch butterflies, their spectacular migration, and how to use monarchs to further science education in primary and secondary schools. Monarch Watch engages in research on monarch migration biology and monarch population dynamics to better understand how to conserve the monarch migration and also promotes the protection of monarch habitats throughout North America.

We rely on private contributions to support the program and we need your help! Please consider making a tax-deductible donation. Complete details are available at https://monarchwatch.org/donate or you can simply call 785-832-7374 (KU Endowment Association) for more information about giving to Monarch Watch.

If you have any questions about this email or any of our programs, please feel free to contact us anytime.

Thank you for your continued interest and support!

Jim Lovett
Monarch Watch
https://monarchwatch.org

You are receiving this mail because you were subscribed to the Monarch Watch list via monarchwatch.org or shop.monarchwatch.org – if you would rather not receive these periodic email updates from Monarch Watch (or would like to remove an old email address) you may UNSUBSCRIBE via https://monarchwatch.org/unsubscribe

If you would like to receive periodic email updates from Monarch Watch, you may SUBSCRIBE via https://monarchwatch.org/subscribe

This e-mail may be reproduced, printed, or otherwise redistributed as long as it is provided in full and without any modification. Requests to do otherwise must be approved in writing by Monarch Watch.

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IUCN Red List and the status of monarchs

21 July 2022 | Author: Jim Lovett

The recent news about the IUCN’s Red List does not change the status of monarchs in the U.S. In a December 15, 2020 press release, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its decision with respect to the petition to declare the monarch a “threatened” species under the Endangered Species Act:

“After a thorough assessment of the monarch butterfly’s status, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) has found that adding the monarch butterfly to the list of threatened and endangered species is warranted but precluded by work on higher-priority listing actions. With this decision, the monarch becomes a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and its status will be reviewed each year until it is no longer a candidate.”

Upon that announcement, we wrote that the “warranted but precluded” decision for monarchs is the right one at this time. It acknowledges the need for continued vigilance due to the numerous threats to the population while emphasizing the need to continue support for programs that create and sustain habitats for monarchs. It also should be clear that it is the North American monarch migration that is threatened and not the species, which is widely distributed in the Americas and elsewhere.

Please see our full response to this posted via our blog at monarchwatch.org/blog/2020/12/15/esa-listing-decision-for-the-monarch/

Thank you for your interest and concern!

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Monarch numbers in Mexico: predictions and reality

24 May 2022 | Author: Chip Taylor

I was wrong, really, really wrong, and I’m happy about it. The numbers are in and they are much greater – 2.84 hectares – than I predicted. In my January 6 post “How many hectares in 2021-2022?“, I went to great lengths to explain why I expected the overwintering monarch numbers to be somewhere close to 0.80-1.2 hectares. I based my expectations on the anticipated impact of the drought in much of the Upper Midwest last summer, the extreme temperatures in July and August in that region, the later than average migration, the lower number of roosts reported to Journey North and the lack of emails declaring that large numbers of monarchs had been seen. None of those metrics hinted at a population larger than the 2.1 hectares recorded in 2020. Everything tended lower.

So, how did these metrics fail me or how did I fail to grasp their meaning? I’m not sure. I’ll try to reassess my approach. Alternatively, are there better metrics? The answer is yes. In the future, I will be using a different set of measures, ones that appear to be better at predicting how the population develops each year. Or, maybe I should follow John Pleasant’s lead and work out a way to count “eggs per stem” at a specific time each year. That’s what John does near Ames, Iowa and his predictions are often better than mine. This year, John wrote “My estimate was 2.1 with a margin that topped out at about 3”. Not bad – 2.84 vs “about 3”. Beats me!

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Monarch Population Status

24 May 2022 | Author: Jim Lovett

The WWF-Telmex Telcel Foundation Alliance, in collaboration with the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP), the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), and the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve (MBBR), announced the total forest area occupied by overwintering monarch colonies today. Ten (10) colonies were located this winter season with a total area of 2.84 hectares, a 35% increase from the previous season (2.10 ha):

monarch-population-figure-monarchwatch-2022
Figure 1. Total Area Occupied by Monarch Colonies at Overwintering Sites in Mexico.

WWF notice: Aumenta 35% la presencia de mariposas Monarca en los bosques de hibernación de Michoacán y el Estado de México

Report (spanish): Monitoreo de la colonias de hibernación de la mariposa monarca en México

WWF story: Eastern monarch butterfly population shows signs of recovery

Report (english): Areas of forest occupied by the colonies of monarch butterflies in Mexico during the 2021-2022 overwintering period

The WWF-TELMEX Telcel Foundation Alliance collaborates with CONANP to systematically monitor the hibernation of the Monarch since 2004, and they join the Institute of Biology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) to analyze changes in forest cover in the area core of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in order to have scientific bases that support the implementation of conservation strategies for the benefit of the species, ecosystems and human beings.

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Monarch Watch Update May 2022

21 May 2022 | Author: Jim Lovett

This newsletter was recently sent via email to those who subscribe to our email updates. If you would like to receive periodic email updates from Monarch Watch, please take a moment to complete and submit the short form at monarchwatch.org/subscribe/

Greetings, Monarch Watchers!

Included in this issue:
1. Monarch Watch Open House & Spring Plant Fundraiser
2. Follow Monarch Watch on LinkedIn
3. Monarch Population Status
4. Monarch Tag Recoveries from Mexico
5. When monarchs are like corn
6. New Project: Monarch Directional Flight
7. About This Monarch Watch List

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1. Monarch Watch Open House & Spring Plant Fundraiser
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Monarch Watch hosted its first in-person Open House and Plant Fundraiser since 2019 on May 7th. An enthusiastic turnout for the presale (online orders and local pickup) and in-person event made it our biggest plant fundraiser ever! In addition, hundreds of visitors enjoyed outdoor family activities and displays, including seed ball making, a kids’ activity guide, butterfly card craft, emergence of monarch butterflies, and lots of caterpillars to see. The Douglas County Extension Master Gardeners were on hand for garden tours and to help visitors choose the right butterfly plants for their gardens and the KU Natural History Museum also participated by hosting a booth.

Thank you to everyone who made this year’s event a success – see you next spring!

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2. Follow Monarch Watch on LinkedIn
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Monarch Watch has established a presence on LinkedIn so if you’d like make a connection and follow us on that platform, head on over to our new page at https://linkedin.com/company/monarchwatch and hit that Follow button!

See you there 🙂

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3. Monarch Population Status
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We are eagerly awaiting the official report from WWF-Mexico with the 2021 overwintering season monarch population numbers and we anticipate we will have that for you in the near future. As soon as the news breaks, it will be reported via our blog and Facebook page so stay tuned!

Monarch Watch Blog: https://monarchwatch.org/blog

Monarch Watch Facebook: https://facebook.com/monarchwatch

In the meantime, be sure to check out the recent “Development of the 2022 monarch population so far” blog post at https://monarchwatch.org/blog/2022/05/18/development-of-the-2022-monarch-population-so-far/

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4. Monarch Tag Recoveries from Mexico
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More than 900 Monarch Watch tags were recovered from monarch overwintering sites in central Mexico during the 2021 tagging season. All of the tags have been examined and the “Tag recoveries from central Mexico” list has been updated. By default, this list is sorted by the report season then by tag code and now includes nearly 21,000 records.

Get out your tag codes and check out the updated list 🙂

Monarch Watch tag recoveries: https://monarchwatch.org/tagrecoveries

As a reminder, it is never too late for data so if you have not yet submitted your records, please do so at your earliest convenience via https://monarchwatch.org/tagging

Thank you to everyone who tagged monarchs in 2021 and also those who assisted with the recovery efforts!

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5. When monarchs are like corn —by Chip Taylor
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I’m going to tell you why and when monarchs are like corn. It’s been on my list to do so for some time. A recent headline gave me the motivation to start this discussion. Let’s start with the obvious, corn doesn’t fly, lay eggs, visit flowers or migrate, but it does grow and every farmer knows that yields are dependent on numerous factors and that two of the most important are timing of planting and temperatures. There’s the similarity – timing and temperature.

The existence of data on both monarchs and corn that can be related to temperatures and weather extremes allows for many comparisons. Similar relationships surely exist for a large number of co-occurring plants and animals.

Explore the complete “When monarchs are like corn” article at https://monarchwatch.org/blog/2022/05/17/when-monarchs-are-like-corn/

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6. New Project: Monarch Directional Flight
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During the spring and mid-summer migrations, there are powered directional flights with no gliding and soaring. Most flight is rapid at speeds of 10-12 mph at 4-10 meters above the ground. Nectaring occurs mostly in the morning and late afternoon. There is some mating and egg laying as these migrations progress. These migrations appear to advance at rates of 30-55 miles per day. In the spring, there are two generations of migrants, the monarchs returning from Mexico have headings that are primarily to the N and NE. This migration generally ends with the death of most of the overwintered monarchs by the end of April. The offspring of the overwintered migrants begin to reach maturity at the end of April and they too tend to move to the N and NE. It is these first-generation monarchs that recolonize the northern breeding area. Curiously, this migration appears to stop at different latitudes as the season progresses northward. This observation gives rise to several questions: do they stop and, if so, when do they stop and why?

Monarch Watch is seeking the immediate assistance of monarch enthusiasts (community scientists) in collecting directional flight observations of monarchs in their area during the spring migration in May and June. Register today to participate!

Complete details are available on the project’s page at https://monarchwatch.org/directional-flight/

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7. About This Monarch Watch List
——————————————————

Monarch Watch ( https://monarchwatch.org ) is a nonprofit education, conservation, and research program affiliated with the Kansas Biological Survey & Center for Ecological Research at the University of Kansas. The program strives to provide the public with information about the biology of monarch butterflies, their spectacular migration, and how to use monarchs to further science education in primary and secondary schools. Monarch Watch engages in research on monarch migration biology and monarch population dynamics to better understand how to conserve the monarch migration and also promotes the protection of monarch habitats throughout North America.

We rely on private contributions to support the program and we need your help! Please consider making a tax-deductible donation. Complete details are available at https://monarchwatch.org/donate or you can simply call 785-832-7374 (KU Endowment Association) for more information about giving to Monarch Watch.

If you have any questions about this email or any of our programs, please feel free to contact us anytime.

Thank you for your continued interest and support!

Jim Lovett
Monarch Watch
https://monarchwatch.org

You are receiving this mail because you were subscribed to the Monarch Watch list via monarchwatch.org or shop.monarchwatch.org – if you would rather not receive these periodic email updates from Monarch Watch (or would like to remove an old email address) you may UNSUBSCRIBE via https://monarchwatch.org/unsubscribe

If you would like to receive periodic email updates from Monarch Watch, you may SUBSCRIBE via https://monarchwatch.org/subscribe

This e-mail may be reproduced, printed, or otherwise redistributed as long as it is provided in full and without any modification. Requests to do otherwise must be approved in writing by Monarch Watch.

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Development of the 2022 monarch population so far

18 May 2022 | Author: Chip Taylor

Predicting how the population will develop each year is a challenge. As recently as the 22nd of April, we posted a rather dismal account of the status of the population. This assessment was based on reports to Journey North, iNaturalist and from some emails received from people in Texas. Overall, there wasn’t a lot of reason to be optimistic.

As one who is trying to understand how the population functions, I get into trouble when I rely too much on the available data. There may be another example of such over-reliance in what happened in early May – a dramatic early advance of first-generation monarchs into the summer breeding area north of 40 North. The paragraphs below summarize what I posted to Dplex-L on the 11th of May. That will be followed by a brief account of how this rapid colonization compares with that of other years and what it could mean for the rest of the breeding season.

The big push of 9-10 May 2022

If you follow monarchs closely, you are aware that there have been numerous reports to Journey North of monarchs being sighted north of 40N (roughly the latitude of St Joseph, MO) in the last two days. These sightings are significant for three reasons. First, because this advance represents colonization of the area north of 40N – the primary area that produces the migratory population that reaches Mexico in Oct-Dec. Second, this advance is a bit earlier than usual. And third, this advance was extraordinarily fast.

I have put together some quick notes to provide some context to what happened during 9-10 May.

There were 44 reports to JN in 9-10 May and of those 42 were in the Midwest and N of 40N.

Most sightings were from 41-42N with one at 45.1N

In contrast, there were only 9 reports from 7-8 May with 6 in the Midwest and only 1 >40N

Most sightings (N=13) from 1 May through 8 May in the Midwest were from 38-39N.

There are 69 miles (111 km) per degree of latitude. The calculations are rough, and only provide an estimate, but if we average 38-39N as a starting point (38.5) and 41-42N as the end point (41.5), that means that the population advanced approximately 207 miles (333 km) in two days. That said, 14/44 of the sightings were from >43N indicating that a number of the monarchs may have advanced more than 300 miles in 2 days.

This movement was aided by strong winds mostly from the south and southwest – see below. This rate of advance rivals that seen in early April 2017 when there was a similar wind aided advance that carried monarchs from northern Oklahoma to mid Nebraska, again a distance of approximately 300 miles.

As in 2017, the newly arriving monarchs N of 40N are well ahead of the emergence of milkweeds with few emerged north of mid Iowa except in burned over areas and some gardens. The difference between that advance and this one is that the former involved butterflies returning from Mexico while this one involves first-generation offspring migrating north from Texas. Being young and still maturing, the first-generation migrants should be able to “wait” for the emergence of milkweeds in these northern areas.

Below are graphs of the temperature, wind speed and wind direction data from my weather station in Berryton, Kansas from 8 through 10 May. The pattern for the 8th was typical for this area and date. The records for the 9th and 10th show extremely gusty winds along with temperatures well above the long-term average.

May 8, 2022

May 9, 2022

May 10, 2022

The timing of the colonization of the northern breeding areas varies from year to year. There are both early and late years. Early years are of interest because they have the potential to give a jump start to the development of a large population. The most recent early year was 2018 which was followed by the largest overwintering population (6.05 hectares) since 2006 (6.87 hectares). However, being early can have negative consequences. The 2012 recolonization appears to have been too early, well in advance of the emergence of milkweeds and a recolonization that involved a number of partially reproductively spent monarchs that returned from Mexico rather than a cohort only of newly emerged first-generation monarchs with a substantial reproductive capacity. The overwintering count during the winter of 2012-2013 as only 1.19 hectares. (There were other factors that contributed to the low number at the end of 2012, but the early start was surely a factor).

So, how does the recolonization this year compare to that of 2018 and 2012? There are a couple of ways of summarizing the data on Journey North. First, we can just list all the sightings from 1 May through 15 May exclusive of sightings from west of the Rockies and east of 80W (western PA). Second, we can count only those sightings that occur N of 40N during that period.

Sightings from 1-15 May exclusive of western states and sightings east of 80W.

YearTotalRevised Total>40N%
202230426519272.5
201826522612153.5
201243536333492.0

These are the three years in the record in which the area north of 40N has been colonized the earliest. In 2018, the population grew to 6.05 hectares from 2.48 the previous year while in 2012, it declined from 2.89 hectares to 1.19. Going back through all the years with first sightings, the pattern of the timing of colonization and growth in 2001, an increase from 2.83 hectares in 2000 to 9.35 hectares at the end of 2001, is similar to that of 2018. Given these precedents, it looks like the colonization of early May this year will lead to an increase in numbers through the summer, into the fall and will eventually result in an increase in numbers next winter. Still, it’s early, and we need to watch how the colonization progresses from now through the 14th of June. After that, we need to follow how the population develops during the summer, how the migration progresses in the fall and more. I’m hoping for a good year.

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When monarchs are like corn

17 May 2022 | Author: Chip Taylor

I received an email this past week (<1May) that referenced an article with an alarming headline. "US corn planting slowest since 2013, yield risks still premature". Why should this be alarming? Well, I’m going to tell you why and when monarchs are like corn. It’s been on my list to do so for some time. This headline gave me the motivation to start this discussion. Let's start with the obvious, corn doesn't fly, lay eggs, visit flowers or migrate, but it does grow and every farmer knows that yields are dependent on numerous factors and that two of the most important are timing of planting and temperatures. There's the similarity – timing and temperature. Do you remember the size of the monarch overwintering population in 2013? It was the lowest ever measured, a mere 0.67 hectares. The number was alarmingly low, a number so shocking that it led to an international agreement between the governments of Canada, the United States and Mexico and a White House invitation to stakeholders to a meeting at the Eisenhower Office Building in D. C. to discuss the issue. This meeting was followed by a Presidential Memorandum on the 20th of June 2014 asking 14 Federal Agencies to actively pursue actions that would benefit monarchs and pollinators. Later, five parties petitioned the Department of Interior to declare monarchs a threatened species. The sharp decline in monarch numbers in 2013 led to an abundance of research directed at trying to understand monarch biology as well as how best to address the loss of habitat which was seen as the major cause for the decline. For my part, I tried to focus on how monarch population growth was affected by seasonal conditions and wrote the following about the decline: Monarch population crash in 2013. Most of this text is still relevant though I know more about monarch population growth now than I did then. Here are the main reasons for the decline.

“The low number of monarchs reported at the overwintering sites in Mexico in the winter of 2013-2014 appears to have been the result of a series of negative weather events that began in the summer of 2011. Excessive temperatures and droughts in 2011 and 2012 followed by low initial colonizing numbers in the spring of 2013 account for the decline. More favorable conditions for population growth allowed the population to increase in 2014 and 2015.” In addition, the timing of the returning monarchs in 2013 was late, in fact, the latest in the record. Which brings me back to corn and timing and temperature.

Both corn and monarchs were affected negatively by these conditions. Corn yields in 2012 were the lowest since the early 90’s – estimated to be -22.2% below the long-term trend. And monarchs were the lowest measured (1.19 hectares) since the start of record keeping in 1994. Corn yields were also below the long-term average in 2013 and monarchs were, as mentioned, were even lower in the winter of 2013.

To get a sense about how the weather this spring compares with that of 2013, I looked up the the deviations from long term mean temperatures for March-May from Texas to Minnesota for both 2013 and 2022.

Month-YearTXOKKSIAMN
Mar-130.9-1.8-2.1-5.6-4.7
Mar-220.81.21.62.60.8
Apr-13-1.8-4.7-5.1-4.3-7.3
Apr-2241.50.5-4.3-5.5
May-130-1-0.1-0.8-1
May-22

As you can see, the March temperatures in 2013 were substantially below normal except for Texas. April means were universally low. Though this spring is later than many in recent years, the mean temperatures for March were above average. April temperatures were lower and the first week of May has been colder than predicted from past means. If May temperatures continue to be cooler than normal, the northern movement of first-generation monarchs originating in Texas will be delayed and so will corn planting, resulting in a lower fall population for monarchs and a lower corn yield per acre. At the time of this writing (1 May), it seems likely that the overwintering number next winter will be higher than in 2013. However, the number will certainly be no more than 3 hectares and perhaps much lower.

Monarchs dipped and recovered from 2011-2015 and so did corn. The general pattern is similar. So, in the sense that both responded similarly to the physical conditions, monarchs are like corn and the converse. This response exists in spite of the fact that the areas represented in the measures of monarchs and corn are quite different. Most monarchs that reach the overwintering sites originate from the western part of the Midwest while corn production includes large areas with lower monarch recovery rates in Mexico. Corn recovered from the downturn faster than monarchs and that’s to be expected due to the manner of propagation. Corn starts with similar acreage each year whereas monarchs start with the number and timing of those returning from Mexico which can vary greatly from year to year.

YearCorn
(bushels per acre)
Monarchs
(hectares)
2010152.64.02
2011146.82.89
2012123.11.19
2013158.10.67
2014171.01.13
2015168.44.01

The existence of data on both monarchs and corn that can be related to temperatures and weather extremes allows for these comparisons. Similar relationships surely exist for a large number of co-occurring plants and animals. Soybeans also declined from 2010 through 2012 yet increased again in 2013. However, the overall similarity between crop yields and monarch numbers is compromised in this case by the adoption of new varieties and better production methods through the years. The larger point here is that what happened to monarchs from 2010-2015 was not unique. It’s likely that a large number of species were similarly affected during this interval.

Addendum
As of 13 May, the warmer weather in the Midwest that began on the 8th has changed the outlook for both the corn growers and monarchs. Planting has intensified and the northward migration of first-generation monarchs has been aided in an extraordinary manner by strong winds from the south and southwest. Again, these improvements demonstrate that corn, monarchs and many other species respond in a similar manner to weather conditions.

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Tag recovery list updated

16 May 2022 | Author: Jim Lovett

More than 900 Monarch Watch tags were recovered from monarch overwintering sites in central Mexico during the 2021 tagging season. All of the tags have been examined and the “Tag recoveries from central Mexico” list has been updated. By default, this list is sorted by the report season then by tag code and now includes nearly 21,000 records.

To view the tag recovery lists, please visit monarchwatch.org/tagrecoveries

Thank you to everyone who tagged monarchs in 2021 and also those who assisted with the recovery efforts!

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Monarch Watch Update April 2022

22 April 2022 | Author: Jim Lovett

This newsletter was recently sent via email to those who subscribe to our email updates. If you would like to receive periodic email updates from Monarch Watch, please take a moment to complete and submit the short form at monarchwatch.org/subscribe/

Happy Earth Day, Monarch Watchers!

Included in this issue:
1. Monarch Watch Open House & Spring Plant Fundraiser
2. Follow Monarch Watch on LinkedIn
3. Monarch Population Status
4. Monarch Tag Recoveries from Mexico
5. Monarch Puzzle Wrap Up
6. Directional Flight
7. Free Milkweeds for Restoration Projects
8. About This Monarch Watch List

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1. Monarch Watch Open House & Spring Plant Fundraiser
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It’s here! Our annual Spring Plant Fundraiser is now online at https://spring.monarchwatch.org and we have thousands of plants looking for good homes. We are once again offering online ordering and contactless curbside pickup (or limited local delivery) for this event. To place an order you must live in, or be willing to travel to, LAWRENCE, KANSAS (we cannot ship). These plants are ideal for starting butterfly gardens or adding to established gardens and can contribute to the health of monarch and pollinator populations. Don’t miss out!

A complete list of plants and online ordering is available via the link below and pickup/delivery appointments are being scheduled for May 3-7.

Monarch Watch Spring Plant Fundraiser: https://spring.monarchwatch.org

We are also having an in-person component of our Spring Open House & Plant Fundraiser on Saturday, May 7th. This will be an outdoor-only event and there will be tours of our gardens, games, activities, monarch butterflies, caterpillars, and lots of butterfly plants available for your own garden! Complete details at https://monarchwatch.org/openhouse/

If you are not able to participate locally, we invite you to contribute to this annual fundraiser by donating to Monarch Watch via https://monarchwatch.org/donate

Thank you!

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2. Follow Monarch Watch on LinkedIn
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Monarch Watch has established a presence on LinkedIn so if you’d like make a connection and follow us on that platform, head on over to our new page at https://linkedin.com/company/monarchwatch and hit that Follow button!

See you there 🙂

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3. Monarch Population Status —by Chip Taylor
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I have looked at a lot of monarch and weather data over the years in attempts to understand the factors that influence the development of the population. These factors include the number of monarchs returning to Texas from Mexico, whether the migration is early or late, the mean temperatures in March, the timing of the emergence of milkweeds, the abundance of nectar sources and the temporal and spatial distribution of egg laying by returning females. Additional weather-related factors include soil moisture and rainfall.

That’s a lot to track and it gets confusing when trying to sort through the data over decades since the impact of some factors is affected by others. For example, droughts have a greater impact when temperatures are high than when they are low. While it will take months to sort out how the population develops this year, I’ve put together some distribution maps of monarchs and milkweeds based on photos submitted to iNaturalist to see how the conditions this year compare to those in 2021. As you will see, the numbers this year do not compare well with last year. The numbers of returning monarchs were lower this past March and the numbers of photos of milkweeds were also lower. Monarchs seem to be well ahead of emerging milkweed.

Overall, the population doesn’t appear to be off to a good start. However, the numbers could be somewhat misleading. Last year, we had a special project with iNaturalist based on an attempt to determine how severely the massive freeze in Texas in February 2021 affected monarchs and nectar sources. It’s possible that our appeal for help last year generated an unusual number of submissions. Still, as I write (6 April), the first monarch has been reported in southern Kansas well ahead of the milkweeds.

Here are links to the reports generated through the collaboration with iNaturalist last year:

Monarchs and the freeze in Texas
https://monarchwatch.org/blog/2021/06/01/monarchs-and-the-freeze-in-texas/

Nectar plants used by monarchs during March in Texas
https://monarchwatch.org/blog/2021/05/25/nectar-plants-used-by-monarchs-during-march-in-texas/

And if you are interested in the distribution Maps I mentioned above, please see
https://monarchwatch.org/blog/2022/04/22/monarch-population-status-47/

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4. Monarch Tag Recoveries from Mexico
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We are in the process of vetting the tag recoveries from the overwintering sites in Mexico (about 900 of them in total) and we will post the complete list online very soon so stay tuned!

Monarch Watch tag recoveries: https://monarchwatch.org/tagrecoveries

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5. Monarch Puzzle Wrap Up —by Chip Taylor
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I want to thank all of you who participated in the puzzle. I challenged you to come up with the same possible explanation I did for why first-generation monarchs appear to stop directional flight on specific dates in June at different latitudes (cities). I had been thinking about the question for decades and it took me a long time to come up with the answer. I did so the hard way by looking at how a lot of variables changed with the change in the seasons. The answer ultimately was so simple that I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t thought of it. Many of you had difficulties as well. It comes down to conceptualizing what happens to day length in both the spring and early summer and later in the season from late summer through fall. I didn’t ask you to think about the symmetry of the seasonal changes, but it probably would have helped.

There were 22 submissions to the puzzle contest. I had intended to award the Mariposas board game to the first three participants with the correct answer or something close to it. It turned out that the puzzle was harder than I suspected and we had to go through three rounds in which I tried to leave word crumbs that participants could follow with each iteration. I finally had to admit that it’s difficult to conceptualize an increasing function that is progressively decreasing even though those are the seasonal conditions we live with twice a year and that many of us learned as children. So, for those who kept trying, and especially for those who seemed to be on the right track, I coached them by adding a few more word crumbs they could follow. Ultimately, I ended up awarding the Mariposas board game to 5 participants. One of the interesting things for me was the number of times when dealing with the answers I had to go back to suncalc.org to make some more calculations. The puzzle was a learning process for me as well as for many of the participants. From my standpoint, that’s a good outcome.

For a more complete discussion and puzzle wrap up please see
https://monarchwatch.org/blog/2022/04/22/monarch-puzzle-wrap-up/

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6. Directional Flight —by Chip Taylor
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As a follow-up to the puzzle challenge, the next steps involve teaching citizen scientists how to distinguish directional flight from meandering behavior. It’s distinctive, and once learned by volunteers, we can ask “flight spotters” to record whether they are seeing directional flight through May and June. We now have a hypothesis to test based on dates and latitudes. So, for any one site all an observer would have to do is record whether directional flight was observed (weather permitting) over the short period involved. I have already lined up one team in Michigan who will be making these observations. They will also be recording data from the nearest “Tempest” weather station in an effort to closely associate their observations with the behavior of the monarchs. Having a good location where the passing monarchs can be highlighted against the sky will be key. A compass will be needed as well.

I should mention that the shut down of directional flight might not be as abrupt as suggested in the puzzle. Rather, there might be a decline in directional flight over several days rather than an abrupt cutoff. Since we would be looking for a behavior that is declining with fewer individuals showing directional flight each day, it may be difficult to identify the exact date when directional flight ceases at each location.

Oh, almost forgot. There is one more thing that makes me believe that this line of research is worth pursuing – the converse.

What is the rate of change from one day to the next when the monarchs first arrive at the overwintering sites in Mexico at the end of October? Again, the rate of change drops below 1 minute – ranging from -58 to -56 seconds from 29 Oct to 2 Nov at Angangueo. In this case, in contrast to stopping directional flight, the migration toward the overwintering sites continues southward through Mexico until sometime in early December when the change per day is about -20 seconds. That gives us another mystery, doesn’t it? Why would monarchs experiencing increasing daylength that is increasing at a decreasing rate stop directional flight while monarchs that are experiencing decreasing daylength that is decreasing at a decreasing rate keep flying? Every aspect of monarch biology seems to be complicated, doesn’t it?

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7. Free Milkweeds for Restoration Projects
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We are in need of CALIFORNIA applicants!

The Free Milkweeds for Habitat Restoration program focuses on distributing free milkweed plugs for large-scale habitat restoration projects throughout the range of the western monarch butterfly population in California and the eastern population east of the Rocky Mountains. The focus is on the main migration routes.

In California we currently have milkweed seed ecotypes for the Central Valley and Southern California. Only projects in these areas will be eligible for free milkweeds this spring. Projects must be a minimum of one acre.

More info and to apply: https://monarchwatch.org/free-milkweed-restoration

For projects east of the Rockies, the application is still open and there are a few milkweeds still available for 2+ acre projects.

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8. About This Monarch Watch List
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Monarch Watch ( https://monarchwatch.org ) is a nonprofit education, conservation, and research program affiliated with the Kansas Biological Survey & Center for Ecological Research at the University of Kansas. The program strives to provide the public with information about the biology of monarch butterflies, their spectacular migration, and how to use monarchs to further science education in primary and secondary schools. Monarch Watch engages in research on monarch migration biology and monarch population dynamics to better understand how to conserve the monarch migration and also promotes the protection of monarch habitats throughout North America.

We rely on private contributions to support the program and we need your help! Please consider making a tax-deductible donation. Complete details are available at https://monarchwatch.org/donate or you can simply call 785-832-7374 (KU Endowment Association) for more information about giving to Monarch Watch.

If you have any questions about this email or any of our programs, please feel free to contact us anytime.

Thank you for your continued interest and support!

Jim Lovett
Monarch Watch
https://monarchwatch.org

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