Not long ago, I wrote an article about the collapse of the Western Monarch butterfly population. While that was very unfortunate news to report, I was heartened by those of you who reached out to me expressing your concern. Hope is eternal, and research and restoration efforts are ever adapting to the changing circumstances.
I write today to let you know of a new report published by the Monarch Joint Venture group. This report summarizes the findings of new research on monarchs from 67 peer reviewed papers that were published between June 2019 and August 2020. This is the best new science we must consider as we move forward thinking about this species.
Here are a few of the interesting tidbits form the report’s findings:
Monarchs migration is a tough trip with high mortality for a variety of reasons. Using radio trackers, one study was able to find that monarchs can travel up to 88 miles per day.
Butterfly milkweed, a species of the sands in our area, can be cultivated from cuttings of adult plants before flowering. This is a species that I would like to grow more of as it benefits many other pollinators, too.
Lukens et al.,2020 shows that in the Upper Midwest, early season nectar sources are lacking. Monarchs returning north in late April and early May need more nectar sources to sustain themselves. When you are planning your pollinator gardens, think about this as you design your seed mixes or consider plant sale choices.
Multiple studies showed that monarch caterpillars move from plant to plant. Thus, it is advised to plant multiple stems across your garden to allow for that movement. To that end, another study also found that monarch eggs and larva were more abundant when milkweed was planted along the perimeter of a garden versus on the interior with other dense vegetation.
Lastly, Lukens et al.,2020, found that milkweed density’s in midwestern grasslands peaks in the middle of July. Thus, if you want to better understand how much milkweed you have on your property, that would be the time to do your monitoring.
There was so much more in the report that I think anyone who is interested should read. It certainly gave me some new insights into the life cycle of the monarch butterfly and how I can better steward its population on my sites. Go to monarchjointventure.org/blog/annual-research-review to read the full report.