Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Monarch Watch

Last weekend, we spotted the first Monarch of the season sipping nectar from a zinnia in our garden. Her proboscis methodically reached each floret before she flew to her next nectar source. I was grateful for the weedy patch of milkweed, butterfly weed, and coneflower we always seem to neglect. Monarchs need protection from their many predators, particularly in the larval stage. Sometimes a few weeds in mid-summer are a welcome sight!  Here's a message from Monarch Watch.

Greetings Monarch Watchers!

The fall monarch migration is almost upon us! This is just a quick update to let you know what's been going on at Monarch Watch and what is coming up as we prepare for our 20th fall season! :-)

Monarch Population Update
A lot has happened since Monarch Watch was created in 1992. We've seen the overwintering population in Mexico increase each year from 1994 to 1996, only to crash inexplicably in 1997. We have seen ups and downs in overwintering numbers - but mostly downs since 2003. In fact, the population has been below the long-term average for the last seven years. The downward trend is now statistically significant (Brower, et al. 2011) and it is clear that we have entered a new era of monarch numbers.

The great migrations of the 90s are a thing of the past. In the future, we can expect overwintering populations in Mexico of 2-6 hectares. The main reason for the decline is loss of habitat. Monarch habitat has been reduced by at least 140 million acres in the last 10 years - about a fifth of the total breeding area available to monarchs has been lost. At least 100 million acres of habitat has been lost due to the adoption of herbicide resistant corn and soybeans.

So, where does this leave us and what does this mean for tagging?

We can expect a low year for monarchs, perhaps not as low as 2009 (1.92 hectares) or 2004 (2.19 hectares) but close to these numbers. The migration should be particularly low in the New England area and the numbers at Cape May will be low as well. The central region (Ontario, MI, OH, IN, IL) will see a modest migration and could produce more monarchs than the area defined by the eastern Dakotas, MN, WI, and IA. Even though the population will be down from historical highs, there will still be plenty of monarchs to tag.

Please visit our blog (http://monarchwatch.org/blog) for a more detailed account of the current monarch population and updates as the season progresses.

2011 Season Tagging Kits
Our tags for the 2011 Monarch Watch Tagging Kits arrived recently and we sent out the first batch of kits on Friday. Those of you that ordered between January 1st and June 30th of this year should receive your tags within the next few days.

If you haven't ordered your tagging kits yet, there is still plenty of time before the migration begins - but the tags are going fast. If you would like to participate in monarch tagging this fall, please place your order for tags as soon as possible so that you don't miss out.

If you would like to participate in the 2011 monarch tagging season this fall, be sure to order your tags soon! As many of you know, we have a limited number of tags created each year and we usually run out before the end of the migration season. Tags are available on a first-come first-serve basis and we will begin shipping kits out by the 1st of August - ahead of the migration in your area (to determine approximate timing please see http://monarchwatch.org/tagmig/peak.html).

Monarch Tagging Kits are available via the Monarch Watch Shop at


Remember, each purchase helps support Monarch Watch - thank you for your interest and support!

Chip in for Monarch Watch!
Monarch Watch is turning 20 and needs your help! If you are in a position to offer financial support to Monarch Watch (or if you know someone who might be), please consider making a fully tax-deductible donation of any amount during our 2011 "Chip in for Monarch Watch" fundraising campaign.

It is no secret that Monarch Watch founder and director Chip Taylor is passionate about monarchs and Monarch Watch - he is genuinely concerned about the future of the monarch migration and that of our program as well. In honor of Chip we officially launched in 2009 the now annual "Chip in for Monarch Watch" fundraising campaign - a chance for Monarch Watchers, colleagues, friends, and family across the planet to show their support for Chip and the Monarch Watch program he brought to life two decades ago.

Last year's campaign was a huge success, raising $23,000 via nearly 500 donors - wow!

We encourage you to spend a little time reading through previous donor comments - the connections that are facilitated by monarchs and Monarch Watch are truly extraordinary.

Complete campaign details at: http://monarchwatch.org/chip/

Thank you for your continued support!

Monarch Rearing Kits
As many of you know, sending out Monarch Rearing Kits is a big part of our program. The fall is our busiest season and we send out thousands of caterpillars each week to addresses all over the U.S. (east of the Rocky Mountains). We have lots of kits on the shipping calendar, but there is still time to place an order. Available shipping weeks appear on the product page linked below.

Our Monarch Rearing Kit contains fourteen to sixteen first to third instar monarch larvae (caterpillars) and rearing instructions. The larvae arrive in small cups and must be transferred to milkweed plants or leaves to feed. Please make sure you have fresh milkweed available before your caterpillars arrive. Each caterpillar generally needs 18 inches of milkweed to pupate. Pupation will occur in about 10 days and adults will emerge 10-14 days after pupation.

Monarch Rearing Kits are available via the Monarch Watch Shop:http://shop.monarchwatch.org/store/c/365-Rearing-Monarchs.aspx

Festival of Butterflies
August 5-7 & 12-14 (Friday-Sunday over two weekends)
Powell Gardens, Kingsville, MO

Monarch Watch will once again be on hand at the Festival of Butterflies at Powell Gardens (our 10th year!) to answer any questions you have about monarchs or any of our education, conservation, or research projects. We'll be bringing lots of show and tell so you'll be able to get up close and personal with monarchs (all life stages) and many other butterflies and moths :-) It's fun for the whole family!

The festival runs August 5-7 & 12-14 - complete details are available athttp://powellgardens.org/

Check out lots of photos from last year's festival at http://on.fb.me/oAhn9b - we'll post plenty during this year's festival as well!


Powell Gardens is about 30 miles east of Kansas City on U.S. Highway 50.

Monarch Watch Fall Open House
Saturday, 10 September 2011 - 8a to 3p
Monarch Watch, Lawrence, KS (will be broadcast online as well)

Join us at our Fall Open House at Foley Hall (KU West Campus) on Saturday, September 10th to celebrate the arrival of migrating monarchs coming from the north. This free event is designed to please children and adults alike.

At the Open House you can learn about creating Monarch Waystations and see the magnificent butterfly and pollinator garden created and maintained by Margarete Johnson and the Douglas County Master Gardeners. Weather permitting, you will see an abundance of butterflies and numerous other small but important pollinators. On a good day over 20 species of butterflies visit the garden. The Biohouse, adjacent to the garden, will be filled with monarchs and other species. The Biohouse and garden contain numerous butterfly flowers. Bring your cameras. It is well worth a visit.

As usual, we will provide refreshments, lots of show & tell (including a honey bee observation hive and some "Oh, my!" insects you may have never seen before), tours of our gardens and lab space, hands-on activities, games, videos, monarch tagging demonstrations, iChat videoconferencing, and, of course, lots of monarch caterpillars, pupae, and butterflies!

We also plan to have a limited number of Monarch pupae (to emerge as a butterfly at home or at school) that will be given to each child in attendance, while supply lasts.

If you can't be there, be sure to visit us online at the address below to see what we're doing - we plan on having at least a couple of webcams broadcasting the day's events.

Photos, live broadcasts, and other details at: http://monarchwatch.org/openhouse

Monarch Tagging Event
Saturday, 17 September 2011 - 7:30-11:30a
Baker Wetlands, Lawrence, KS (will be broadcast online as well)

Once again, Monarch Watch and Jayhawk Audubon Society are sponsoring Monarch butterfly tagging for the public at the Baker University Wetlands. The wetlands are located along 31st Street between Haskell and Louisiana. There is no charge to participants and no experience is necessary - so bring yourself, your kids (all ages), your friends, and your neighbors! If you have a net, bring that too, though Monarch Watch and JAS will provide the tags, nets, and instructions in how to net and tag monarchs. In 2001, 325 participants tagged nearly 3000 of the estimated 20,000 Monarchs present, and at least 85 of those tagged were recovered at the winter roost sites in Mexico! You can view all of these recoveries tagged at these events by searching for Lawrence-tagged monarchs in our searchable recovery database.

Every year, tens to hundreds of thousands of Monarchs stop on their way south to refuel on the nectar from the ocean of yellow Bidens flowers at the wetlands, a fantastic site in its own right. We will have check-in and information tables just inside the boardwalk entrance to the wetlands so you can arrive and leave whenever you please. The monarchs are usually roosting or clustering (sometimes in spectacular concentrations!) until around 8:30a. As it warms up, they begin foraging on the Bidens flowers around the boardwalk.

Photos, live broadcasts, and other details at: http://monarchwatch.org/wetlands

Our Amazon Earnings
As you may already know, you can help support Monarch Watch with each purchase at Amazon.com and Endless.com (Amazon's specialized Shoe and Handbag store). Monarch Watch earns a small referral fee equal to 4-15% of the item total when you use the links available on our site to visit these online stores.

In the second quarter of 2011 (April-June), 436 items were ordered in support of Monarch Watch, earning our program $628.96!

Details are available at http://monarchwatch.org/amazon/

A complete list of items is available for those that are curious to see what folks are buying to support Monarch Watch. Note: No personal information is tied to purchases; that is, we do not know who purchased the items, only that the items were purchased via the link(s) from our site and therefore in support of our program.


Monarch Watch Facebook Page
We now have more than 6,100 Facebook users that "Like" our page and keep tabs on what's happening at Monarch Watch via


This has become a great way for us to quickly publish photos, videos, and news items - and also to hear from other Monarch Watchers around the globe that choose to share their experiences.

We realize that some of you have never used Facebook or even have any desire to - but don't worry, you do not need to create a Facebook account to view our page. It is publicly available to anyone that wants to stop by and see what is going on - a Facebook account is only required if you want to post a comment, photo, etc. yourself or automatically receive notifications of new content being posted on our page.

Check it out!

Contacting Monarch Watch
As you might imagine, fall is a very busy time for us here at Monarch Watch. Not only are we sending out 200,000 tags and tens of thousands of caterpillars, we have several public events on the calendar and field requests from blogs, newspapers, magazines, radio, tv, film crews, and other media. We seem to be quite popular this time of year! :-)

Given our limited staff, this means that something's gotta give and if you've ever tried to call or email us in August or September you know what that is. If you do contact us during this period, rest assured that you will receive a response from us eventually, it just may not be in a timely manner. Fear not, though - there are other ways to get the information you need:

Monarch Watch main site: http://monarchwatch.org

Facebook: http://facebook.com/monarchwatch

Monarch Watch Blog: http://monarchwatch.org/blog

Community Forums: http://monarchwatch.org/forums

Monarch Watch Shop (for any questions about orders of tagging kits, rearing kits, etc.): http://shop.monarchwatch.org and mwshop@monarchwatch.org

About This Monarch Watch List

Monarch Watch (http://monarchwatch.org) is a nonprofit educational outreach program based at the University of Kansas that focuses on the monarch butterfly, its habitat, and its spectacular fall migration.

We rely on private contributions to support the program and we need your help! Please consider making a tax-deductible donation. Complete details are available athttp://monarchwatch.org/donate or you can simply call 800-444-4201 (KU Endowment Association) for more information about giving to Monarch Watch.

If you have any questions about this email or any of our programs please feel free to contact us anytime.

Thank you for your continued interest and support!

Monarch Watch

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