Saving the Monarch Butterfly

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Photo Credit: Stephanie Rathsack

 

According to recent data from overwintering monarch colonies, there are indications that both eastern and western monarch populations have declined by ~70% over the last 20 years—a dangerous figure when considering long-term survival of the species. These overwintering data provide scientists with information about survivors of each year’s migration to Mexico or California.  However, because monarchs are widespread throughout North America, it is extremely challenging to accurately understand and estimate how many individuals are present in the population before migrating. To help solve this problem the Monarch Joint Venture is partnering across Canada, the US and Mexico to engage citizen scientists in gathering data about the monarch late summer breeding population for one week (July 29th – August 5th). By collecting data from across the entire range during one small time window, citizen scientists from all three countries will help capture a snapshot of monarch breeding activity prior to peak migration.

 

Why a Monitoring Blitz?

Monarch butterflies are declining—this is a trend that has been seen over the course of several years, but it is still impossible to say just why it is occurring. It is easier for scientists to monitor monarchs in their overwintering sites due to their concentration in small areas. But this provides information during only a portion of the year, with several generations of butterflies occurring between each measuring period. With limited resources and a wide range to cover, it would be impossible for scientists to accurately measure monarch numbers throughout their breeding range. However, these numbers would provide new insight never yet considered, and would allow for a better understanding of why monarch populations are declining, and more importantly, what can be done to save them.

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Photo credit: Stephanie Rathsack

 

How can we help?

Anyone can help during the week of the International Monarch Monitoring Blitz. All you need is a location where milkweed is growing, and a way to record and submit the data you collect.  The blitz runs from July 29th to August 5th, and covers the entirety of the North American monarch butterfly range, including Mexico, the United States, and Canada. Depending on your site location, there are three locations where data will be collected:

 

United States: https://app.mlmp.org/Monitoring/AnecObservation.aspx

Canada: http://www.mission-monarch.org/

Mexico: http://www.naturalista.mx/projects/mariposa-monarca-en-mexico

 

In order to record data, participating citizen scientists should become familiar with the monarch life stages (egg, larval instars, pupa, and adult), and be able to commit a block of time to searching for them. The time spent searching can vary based on the participants availability, but can range between fifteen minutes and several hours.

In order to participate in this exciting event, River Bend Nature Center will be hosting a Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP) Training On Saturday, July 29th. Participants in this training will receive in depth information on the monarch butterfly including identification, life history, and rearing instructions. The remainder of the training will be an outdoor, hands-on data collection session. The information gathered during the course of this training will be submitted to the Monitoring Blitz, and participants will be able to use their knowledge to conduct their own data collection offsite.

 

Interested in participating in the MLMP training?

Seats are still available, but filling up fast! Pre-register online, over the phone, or in person in order to guarantee a spot.

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