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November 2002


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Kent McFarland <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Vermont Butterfly Survey <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 13 Nov 2002 08:38:31 -0500
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> Monarch Watch Update - November 12, 2002
> http://www.MonarchWatch.org
> [log in to unmask]
> ==========================================
> Contents:
>    1) Welcome!
>    2) Status of the Population
>    3) Adopt-a-Classroom Donations
>    4) Tagging Data Sheets
>    5) 2002 Recoveries
>    6) Just in Time for the Holidays!
>    7) Bird Predation on Monarchs
>    8) Queens and Soldiers
>    9) Interstate Shipment of Butterflies
>  10) How to Unsubscribe from this Update
> ==========================================
> 1) Welcome to Monarch Watch's Update List!
> You are receiving this email because you have provided Monarch Watch with
> your email address at some point and expressed interest in receiving updates
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> unsubscribe information at the end of this message.
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> educational/promotional materials that allow you to actively experience the
> monarch life cycle and its spectacular fall migration.
> If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us anytime!
> Your friends at Monarch Watch
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> [log in to unmask]
> ==========================================
> 2) Status of the Population - by Chip Taylor
> Reports from the newspaper "La Voz de Michoacan" (link to article below)
> indicate monarchs began to arrive in the vicinity of the overwintering sites
> on the 28th of October. The monarchs are right on time, at least
according to
> the models we have been working on for the initiation and pace of the
> migration. Even though some of the monarchs have reached the overwintering
> locations near Angangueo in Michoacan, others are still moving (as of
> November 6) along the coastal flyway in Texas.
> -------------------------------------------------------------
> La Voz de Michoacan 12 Nov issue (1.5MB PDF file, in Spanish)
> http://www.voznet.com.mx/anteriores/ma.pdf
> -------------------------------------------------------------
> Monarchs have two paths through Texas, a coastal route and a central
> The central path follows the old prairie boundary on a SW track through
> central Texas into the Edwards plateau west of San Antonio and then SW
> through the Uvalde area toward Eagle Pass and Del Rio on the border with
> Mexico. The majority of monarchs from eastern North America evidently enter
> Mexico between these two border cities. Most of the land along the border
> between Eagle Pass and Del Rio consists of a few large ranches and some of
> the ranch owners get in touch with us from time to time to report the masses
> of monarchs moving through their area. This year one of the ranchers
> that the butterflies were either low in number or the persistent rains and
> low clouds kept the butterflies dispersed.
> The coastal flyway is less well known. Movement along this pathway is highly
> variable within and among years. The path is narrow, perhaps only a mile of
> two in width, which may explain why we know less about this flyway. To be
> aware of this pathway one has to be right on the coast at the right time. As
> the number of observers in Texas increases, due to the efforts of Mike Quinn
> and Harlen and Altus Aschen, we should be able to learn more about the
> movement of monarchs along this track. Although the reports of monarchs on
> this route sometimes indicate that thousands are present, the numbers do not
> approach those seen on the central path. This is but a small portion of the
> total population. Monarchs on this pathway probably originate in the
> northeast and move south until they encounter the Gulf Coast and then begin
> to follow the coastal edge toward the west. This is a longer route to Mexico
> and it may take the butterflies on this path 10-14 additional days to reach
> the Mexican border.
> Last month I mentioned that I would make a reassessment of the population if
> the reports from Texas for the last two weeks of October indicated that the
> population was larger than I had anticipated. Unfortunately, even though
> numbers of monarchs were seen during this period in a few locations (e.g.,
> reports of 5,000 and 10-20 thousand at different sites), the masses (100s of
> thousands) of monarchs seen in previous years were absent. The rainy,
> and cool weather in late October may have prevented large aggregations of
> monarchs from forming and limited the observers as well. Mike Quinn, Bob
> Pyle, and others visited Parque Ecologico Chipinque in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon
> on Monday, October 21st where they saw monarchs pouring through the
> at rates of several 100 per minute. In the early 90's I had two occasions to
> see monarchs streaming along the north side of the mountains (heading SE)
> near Linares in Nuevo Leon - an impressive sight. These sightings were in
> first two weeks of November and appeared to be the last of the "flow"
> this region in the years I was there. In normal years this streaming can be
> seen periodically for several weeks.
> Overall, nothing has happened to alter my perception that the population at
> the overwintering sites will be down this winter. I'm anticipating a
> population of about 3 hectares for all sites combined. The total could be
> lower than the all time low of 2.83 hectares recorded in 2000. At Cape May,
> Dick Walton and his associates record the number of monarchs encountered in
> what are known as Pollard transects three times a day for 8 weeks during the
> migration. The number of monarchs seen this year were remarkably similar
> (albeit about 10% higher) to those observed in 2000. The totals for 2002
> (http://www.concord.org/~dick/mmp02.html) are the fourth lowest recorded in
> the eleven years this protocol has been followed.
> ==========================================
> 3) Adopt-a-Classroom Donations
> We want to thank all of you who have gathered schools supplies, books in
> Spanish and other materials for the schools in the vicinity of the monarch
> sanctuary in Mexico. In addition to several individual contributions we have
> received two large donations - 8 pallets of materials from Appleton North
> High School (Appleton, WI) and about 300 lbs. of materials from Crestwood
> Elementary School (Richmond, VA). Overall, we have more supplies to
> distribute to the schools in Mexico this year than the 4.5 tons of books and
> supplies delivered during our January 2002 Adopt-a-Classroom trip. Thank
> Unfortunately, monetary contributions that help cover the costs of
> transporting the materials and other expenses (promotional flyers, storage,
> etc.) are way down this year. Approximately $3,000 has been contributed to
> the Adopt-a-Classroom Fund this year versus over $9,000 last year. The
> Adopt-a-Classroom program requires approximately $13,000 annually to
> and a large part of these expenses are paid out of Monarch Watch's operating
> funds. Whether or not we will be able to cover these expenses this year is
> not yet known :-(
> If you would like to make a tax-deductible contribution to the
> Adopt-a-Classroom Fund, please make checks payable to Monarch Fund and mail
> to:
> Monarch Watch
> University of Kansas
> 1200 Sunnyside Avenue
> Lawrence, KS 66045
> Please include "Adopt-a-Classroom" in the memo field or in a note. Thank you
> for your continued support!
> ==========================================
> 4) Tagging Data Sheets
> It's that time of year again. The tagging is finished and the data sheets
> being returned in good numbers. If you have not yet returned your data
> please do so. We need all the data sheets to coordinate the information on
> the recoveries. So far, there are 107 recoveries in the United States and
> once the data sheets are in and scanned, we will be able to inform both the
> tagger and the person who made the recovery of the specifics of their
> particular butterfly.
> Please be sure to fill out your form completely - we need your name &
> address, if you received tags from anyone other than Monarch Watch, the
> tagging date, and the complete tag number. Don't forget: the tag number is
> the entire three letter & three number code!
> Thanks!
> ==========================================
> 5) 2002 Recoveries
> Recoveries are already starting to pile up. We've had 107 domestic
> (recoveries in Canada & the U.S.) so far this year. This is quite a few more
> than we've had in recent years. The following is a list of domestic
> recoveries for the past four years. You can compare this year's numbers with
> numbers from the past, but you should keep in mind that we haven't received
> all of the 2002 recoveries yet.
> Season - # of U.S. & Canadian Recoveries
> 2002 - 107
> 2001 - 51
> 2000 - 56
> 1999 - 62
> 1998 - 29
> 1997 - 146
> ==========================================
> 6) Just in Time for the Holidays!
> Get your FREE $5 Monarch Watch Gift Certificate!
> About a year ago Monarch Watch unveiled our new Gulliver's Gift Shop online
> store and your support has been overwhelming. Your shopping at Gulliver's
> Gift Shop has helped us streamline our fulfillment processes, saving us time
> and money that we can better use to continue to pursue our research,
> education and conservation goals.
> As a special thank you we would like to give everyone who supports Monarch
> Watch an early holiday gift. Click on the link below to get a FREE $5 Gift
> Certificate that you can use on any purchase of $20 or more in Gulliver's
> Gift Shop. Get yourself an early present or find something for a friend. We
> now have over 10,000 nature book and AV titles, 500 optics and backyard
> habitat items, and lots of great gift ideas.
> http://shop.monarchwatch.org/gc_promo.asp
> Everyone who clicks on the link above will get the $5 Gift Certificate.
> What's more, 3 people will be selected at random to receive an additional
> certificate!
> So don't wait to get FREE $5 Gift Certificate and a chance at even more
> savings - good luck to everyone!
> http://shop.monarchwatch.org/gc_promo.asp
> ==========================================
> 7) Bird Predation on Monarchs - by Chip Taylor
> In prehistoric times, the air was filled with many large flying insects,
> representatives of a group known as the Paleodictyoptera. This group is
> extinct and the cause of their demise is a matter of speculation; however,
> vertebrates (particularly early lizards and primitive birds) may have had a
> role in their disappearance. Presently, as far as I'm aware, the only LARGE
> diurnal flying insects that share space with birds are migratory locusts and
> monarchs. The locusts make sense on the basis of numbers and monarchs on the
> basis of their distastefulness and emetic properties. Predation on monarchs
> by black-headed grosbeaks and black-backed orioles at the overwintering
> is well known and reasonably well studied. More recently, there have been a
> number of reports of predation on monarchs by scissortail flycatchers and in
> the last month Carol Cullar has reported predation by ladderback woodpeckers
> and grackles. Carol has raised the interesting possibility that the
> woodpeckers and grackles have learned to feed on the monarchs by watching
> scissortail flycatchers. Predation by Western and Cassin's kingbirds is
> to occur at the monarch overwintering sites in California. In an email, Bob
> Pyle mentioned that on a recent trip to Mexico a member of their group,
> Phillips, observed a redtailed hawk as it swerved, grabbed a monarch out the
> air (with its bill, not talons), and ate it - this is an amazing
> In a further exchange concerning bird predation, Bob offered the following:
> "Šat the Bonneville Salt Flats (Utah), as I was watching a recently launched
> monarch rise on a thermal: 'A barn swallow appears, and I briefly fear for
> the rising butterfly. Barn swallows, ring-billed gulls, and English sparrows
> are the only birds here, and all are looking for breakfast. The hirundine
> makes one investigative pass at the butterfly, the monarch flies momentarily
> back at it, and the swallow veers away.' (Chasing Monarchs pp. 161-162). I
> never did see an incidence of predation on monarchs during the journey,
> though I did see aeschnid dragonflies make passes."
> The classic story of birds and monarchs is that of the blue and scrub jays
> and the monarchs. Lincoln Brower and his associates showed that naive blue
> jays would eat monarchs only to "throw up" the monarch within about 10
> minutes. Subsequent to this experience, the blue or scrub jays would not eat
> another monarch. A number of experiments showed that the emetic reaction of
> the birds was due to the vertebrate heart poisons, known as cardiac
> glycosides and cardenolides, compounds that the monarch acquires as a result
> of eating the milkweeds as a larva. As the work unfolded, it became apparent
> that not all monarchs produced the same response and this proved to be
due to
> the milkweeds upon which the larvae fed. As it turns out, the
cardenolides in
> milkweeds vary greatly from species to species. Thus, the monarchs
> are highly variable in their potential edibility and there are monarchs with
> almost no chemical protection and others that are highly toxic. Monarchs
> which have fed on Asclepias syriaca, and this applies to perhaps 90% of the
> fall migrants, appear to have low cardenolide concentrations which may
> explain some of the bird predation.
> ==========================================
> 8) Queens and Soldiers - by Chip Taylor
> The genus to which monarchs belong, Danaus, consists of 11 species. Three of
> these, the monarch (Danaus plexippus), the queen (Danaus gilippus), and the
> soldier (Danaus eresimus), occur in the United States. The queen is broadly
> distributed across the southern states from Georgia to California. It is
> occasionally found as far north as Kansas, Colorado, Utah, and more recently
> at several locations along the Atlantic coast as far north as New Jersey.
> soldier is widely distributed in the Americas but in the U.S. it is confined
> to south Texas with occasional sightings in Florida. Relatively little is
> known about the biology of this species. It is generally uncommon in the
> and appears not to have been studied in detail. There is a substantial
> of literature on the queen, including classical studies of courtship and
> mating, characterization of the pheromones used by males, and the queen's
> role as a model for mimicry with co-occurring Viceroys in the southern
> states.
> Both the queen and the soldier, although they share many characteristics
> monarchs, are considered to be sufficiently different from monarchs in
> morphology to be assigned to a different subgenus (Anosia). The queen and
> soldier have been reported to migrate but the accounts describe directional
> flight; overwintering clusters of the type found in monarchs have not been
> reported. In northern Mexico I have seen queens moving with monarchs in a
> southeasterly direction toward the mountains in Nuevo Leon in November. Like
> monarchs, the queens would cluster in the same trees each fall but they were
> clustered on a different portion of the trees and in lower branches than
> monarchs. In Nuevo Leon, a northern state in Mexico just south of Texas,
> queens were absent during the winter months. Whether they overwintered as
> adults or larvae is not clear. queens and soldiers use a wide array of
> milkweeds as hostplants for larvae including Asclepias curassavica.
> The larva of both species are characterized by warning coloration,
> contrasting black, white and orange, that may serve to alert potential
> vertebrate predators that they are unpalatable or toxic. In the queen, the
> larvae with the less well-defined patterns are said to become females. If
> this is true, it provides a rare instance in which the sexes of larvae
can be
> distinguished on the basis of color or pattern. The larvae of both species
> differ from monarchs in having a third set of filaments (sometimes known as
> tubercles, tentacles, feelers, etc.) that project from the dorsum (back) of
> the caterpillar from the segment just anterior to that bearing the first set
> of abdominal prolegs (see photo). The queen is known to have polymorphic
> pupae with most being green or jade and some being off-white or ivory and a
> few being pink (see photo). The genetic, or developmental, basis for these
> pupal color differences has not been established.
> Like the monarch, there is much to be learned about both of these species.
> For those of you working with students in the areas where the queen and
> monarch, or all three, overlap, these species provide an opportunity for
> students to engage in a variety of comparative studies since all can be
> reared on A. curassavica.
> Queen larva and pink pupa: http://www.MonarchWatch.org/update/queen.html
> Monarchs, Queens, & Soldiers (courtesy of Mike Quinn, TPWD):
> http://home.satx.rr.com/txento/DNpix.htm
> ==========================================
> 9) Interstate Shipment of Butterflies - by Chip Taylor
> Recently, I spoke with a representative of the USDA APHIS (Animal Plant
> Health Inspection Service) concerning the proposed change in the regulations
> that apply to the interstate shipment of butterflies. The proposed
> regulations contained several provisions that would have had a marked impact
> on the rearing of monarchs in classrooms, their rearing and release under a
> variety of conditions, and the interstate shipment of live butterflies or
> their immature stages. These regulations have not been implemented.
> Currently, these proposed regulations, together with the public response,
> under review. This will be a lengthy process, since there are new concerns
> associated with Homeland Security. At present, there is no way to predict
> when the new regulations will be adopted or whether they will include the
> provisions that so many people found objectionable. The old regulations
> remain in effect for the foreseeable future.
> ==========================================
> 10) How to Unsubscribe from this Update
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Kent P. McFarland
Conservation Biology Department                 
Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS)
27023 Church Hill Road
Woodstock, VT  05091
phone   802-457-2779   x124 voice mail
fax             802-457-1053
e-mail  [log in to unmask]