Monarch Watch Blog

Monarch conservation in the age of Covid-19

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020 at 9:46 am by Chip Taylor
Filed under Monarch Conservation | Comments Off on Monarch conservation in the age of Covid-19

milkweed plugs

I consistently overestimate the market for milkweeds and I’ve done it again this year. As an optimist who wants to get milkweeds in the ground to compensate for habitat losses, I ask nurseries to produce more milkweeds than we have been able to cover with sales through the Milkweed Market or funds provided by corporations for the restoration program. Last year my enthusiastic approach cost us over $30,000. This year it looks like we will need an additional $25,000 to cover all the milkweeds we have asked nurseries to produce for Texas*.

Ann and Dena remind me frequently that we don’t have the funds again this year. That’s not good. We need to figure out how to increase sales through the Milkweed Market and to get more support for the Free Milkweeds for Restoration Projects program. I’m not good at marketing. I’m an insect guy and there is nothing in my background that’s helpful in this regard. But we need to step it up, don’t we? We need to get more milkweeds in the ground.

Monarchs are down once again with only 2.83 hectares being reported at the overwintering sites this year. The large year-to-year population increases seen in the past (1996, 2001, see Why monarchs are an enzyme part 3) are no longer possible due to the losses of milkweeds in the Upper Midwest. An analysis of the year-to-year variation in monarch numbers along with the need to have a population that will be able to rebound from extreme winter storm related mortality** will require an overwintering monarch population that AVERAGES 6 hectares. Since 2004, the population has only averaged 3.24 hectares. To achieve an overwintering average of 6 hectares will require the restoration of 1.3 billion milkweed stems. That’s a lot of milkweeds.

We are trying to do our part and through our work with nurseries we have distributed 1 million milkweed plugs since 2010. That’s a start, but given the scale of the problem, we need to do more and to do so we need your help. You can help us market milkweeds by reaching out to others to buy milkweeds through the Milkweed Market or by connecting us with individuals, groups, businesses or corporations that can contribute funds in support of the Free Milkweeds for Restoration Projects program. We know that we are asking a lot in this time of the Covid-19 virus, but monarch conservation doesn’t stop. Let’s plant some milkweeds!

* We are offering Texas customers milkweeds at cost. Flats of 50 milkweed plugs (A. viridis, A. Asperula), appropriate for their region, are available in mid April for $98 each through the Milkweed Market.

** The need to have large overwintering numbers to survive winter storms is clear. Due to increasing temperatures in the mid Pacific, there have been four instances in recent years during which warm air masses moved into central Mexico in the winter months. In each instance, as the air masses encountered cooler air in the mountains, the moisture condensed into rain and sometime sleet or snow, frequently with freezing conditions, that killed the majority of the overwintering populations in 2002, 2004, 2010 and 2016. Temperatures are continuing to increase in the Pacific and such winter events are likely to occur again in the near future.

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