Monarchs, tatoosh, etc.

Pavulaan at Pavulaan at
Tue May 20 20:03:31 EDT 1997

With the revived commotion over the National Butterfly Release, I just
thought I might throw in a quick note here, for general interest.

We are now experiencing the LARGEST northward springtime movement of Monarchs
in my memory: since 1961, when I started collecting out on Long Island, N.Y.
 As all species have their "up" and "down" years, with some years
experiencing record flights, this seems to be the Monarch's year,  at least
here in the Washington D.C. metro area.

Each day since 4/26/97, several very worn, ragged females were seen generally
anywhere around the Washington D.C. metro area.  Most are seen just flying
across roads, always in a determined northward flight.  These females must be
coming straight up from Mexico.  They are absolutely worn and
battered-looking (some almost transparent from scale-wear), and have
obviously been travelling for a long time, over a very great distance.  I
find it hard to believe they are offspring of the overwintering Monarchs,
which grew up along the Gulf of Mexico or southeast.

My butterfly garden is absolutely overwhelmed by Monarch caterpillars.  120
Asclepias tuberosa shoots (some now up to 12") have SEVERAL small to medium
larvae each (400+ at last count, with more females ovipositing since).  I
plan to videorecord this event for proof.  Feeding damage is severe and
substantial, with some smaller host shoots being entirely stripped clean,
forcing me to relocate about 50 larva today, to a local field with Asclepias
incarnata, the only abundant host I have been able to find locally.  

Barring major predation (which seemed to be a problem only immediately after
hatching: many of first instars were found deflated, drooped over leaves,
predated upon by some small predators), we may see a MAJOR outbreak of
Monarchs here in June sometime.  Folks up north in New England may experience
a boom as well, and folks up in Canada may see them farther north than usual.
 Oh, heck, let's watch for them all the way over in the U.K.  It should prove
to be an interesting season.

Why the reference to tatoosh?  If the 4th of July Counts record RECORD
numbers of Monarchs this summer, don't blame (or credit) the butterfly
release.  Looks like mother nature will totally swamp whatever numbers humans
can release.

QUESTIONS: is a similar phenomenon occurring on the west coast?  Is anyone
aware of a similar phenomenon occurring with the Canary Island - Iberian
peninsula population?

Harry Pavulaan

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