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The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Good News for Monarchs!

Posted by | August 16, 2017 | Filed under: Observations

The Reserve conducted its seventh Monarch Rescue yesterday, and the results are encouraging! After four years of very low monarch numbers, this year's Rescue results indicate a positive upswing in this iconic insect's population.

For seven years, Reserve educators and members of the community have gathered to rescue as many monarch butterfly eggs and caterpillars as possible from fields that will soon be mowed. 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.

The rescue process involves checking milkweed plants for signs of monarch eggs on the underside of leaves, as well as caterpillars eating the leaves. This year, in the 2.5 hours out in the fields sleuthing for signs of monarchs, we found 210 eggs and 30 caterpillars. This is a record number for our rescue efforts!

The relocation process took longer than usual this year due to the tremendous number of eggs. Each egg, secured on a leaf from its original host plant, was stapled to the underside of a milkweed leaf in the field that will not be mowed this year. The caterpillars were also released onto milkweed plants in this same field. After 1.5 hours of tedious stapling while keeping hungry mosquitoes at bay, the release was complete.

Below is a visual representation of the seven years of Monarch Rescue data since 2010. A rescue was not conducted in 2011, but has been done every year since. The decline in the monarch population in 2013-2016, witnessed on an international scale, has been attributed to several possible causes: severe weather, habitat loss, and the use of herbicides.

Many thanks to each of the dedicated and kind individuals who participated in this year's Monarch Rescue. We couldn't have covered nearly as much ground without you! Your stewardship efforts made a big difference, and for this the monarchs and I are most grateful.

If you missed this year's Monarch Rescue, keep on eye out for rescue #8 in August of 2018! And, between now and then, there are other ways you can help monarch populations to thrive. Thank you!

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