Come participate in one of citizen science movement’s greatest success stories on Friday, September 2nd at 5:30 PM at the Osborne Nature Center in Elkader! Participants will tag and release live Monarch Butterflies after a short presentation on these fascinating insects. This is a great annual event for the whole family, regardless of etymological expertise, so all are welcome!
Can you believe it takes 24 milkweed plants to feed one monarch butterfly larva (although we still haven’t yet determined if growing boys eat more than girls? The Monarch Butterfly larva matures into an adult butterfly in 28 to 38 days. Monarchs can travel between 50 - 100 miles a day. It can take up to two months to complete their journey to winter habitats, starting in Canada and migrating 3000 miles to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Mexico. Monarch butterflies cannot fly if their body temperature is less than 86 degrees and so they will sit in the sun, or "shiver," their wings to warm up.
The Monarch Butterfly has experienced a devastating decrease in its population in recent years. Since 1995, the Monarch Butterfly population has declined 90%. This is equivalent to losing the entire human population in the United States, except for Florida and Ohio. Scientists attribute this decline to the introduction of the herbicide glyphosate (brand name Round-Up), severe loss of milkweed plants in the Midwest (the only food source of the larval Monarch Butterfly) and other habitat, devastating winter storms, and the logging of winter habitat.
But thankfully, whatever has been done, can be undone, and progress has been made! Since 2000, the Mexican government has stopped the majority of illegal logging with antilogging patrols and payments to rural residents to resolve forestry conflicts. Ragbrai riders have tossed seed balls containing milkweed seed into ditches on their route in 2016. Iowa farmers have entered 112,005 acres into a federal conservation reserve program designed to sustain butterflies, bees, wasps, birds, and bats in just the past year, according to the Iowa Farm Service Agency. And in 2016, the annual overwintering count of Monarch Butterflies was numbered at 150 million butterflies, an increase from 2015’s second lowest-ever count of 42 million butterflies. The 2016 count is still one of the lowest population counts since surveys began in 1993, but the population increase is an encouraging revelation.
Citizens are also asked to plant common, butterfly, and swamp milkweeds for larvae and other food sources, such as Purple Coneflower, Black-eyed Susan, Bee Balm, Joe Pye Weed, and Blazing Star, in their flower gardens for adult Monarch Butterflies and other valuable insects. For more information on rearing and tagging Monarch Butterflies, visit www.MonarchWatch.org. We look forward to seeing you at our Monarch Release Party!
Photo: 2015 Monarch Release Party at Osborne Nature Center in Elkader, Iowa