The Wrack

 blog of the wells reserve at laudholm

Monarch Rescue 2016

August 26, 2016 By Suzanne Kahn Filed under Article Tags: citizen sciencemonarchsstewardship

The Reserve held its sixth annual Monarch Rescue yesterday! Two education staff and seventeen wonderfully enthusiastic volunteers of all ages set out in search of monarch butterfly eggs and caterpillars in fields that will be mowed within the next couple of weeks. Select Reserve fields are mowed each year in an effort to maintain this vital habitat, rather than allow it to eventually grow into forest. The mowing also serves to keep invasive plant species in check.

Monarch caterpillars

Each year since 2010 (with the exception of 2011, when no rescue was conducted), the Monarch Rescue teams were tasked with combing the fields while inspecting individual milkweed plants to look for signs of monarchs. Any found eggs and caterpillars were then brought to a field not slated for mowing that year. Milkweed leaves with eggs on the underside were stapled to secure milkweed leaf undersides. Caterpillars were moved to secure milkweed plants. The graph below shows the number of eggs and caterpillars found during each of the six rescues.

Monarch Rescue Data

Why are the numbers so much higher in 2010 and 2012 than in 2013 and 2014? Monarch populations have been down for the past several years on both ends of the Monarch's migration route. Lack of milkweed, extreme weather, and pesticide use all are thought to have played a role in this decline. As our Monarch Rescue data indicates, there is renewed hope that populations are now rebounding. We will continue to keep our eye on this iconic butterfly's wintering grounds in Mexico though, where climate change, deforestation, and a proposed mine threaten their survival.

Many thanks to our dedicated Monarch Rescue volunteers! If you are interested in volunteering with the Rescue next year, check our online program calendar in August 2017. The event's date changes each year, based on the mowing schedule, and is only set a week or two in advance. In the meantime, there are other ways you can help monarch populations.

Grace with caterpillar

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