Monarch transfers and releases (fwd)

Neil Jones Neil at
Fri Sep 26 02:35:54 EDT 1997

Forwarded message follows:

> From: tlpyle at WILLAPABAY.ORG (Thea L. Pyle)
> To: dplex-l at
> Subject: Monarch transfers and releases
> From: Robert M. Pyle
>         Apologies if this comes twice; I've just rejoined the list and am
> sure sure my initial posting went through.
>         Due to extensive field work and travel, I have been off DPLEX for
> some time.  I have been aware of Hans Schnauber's releases of monarchs and
> painted ladies, and would like to comment.  
>         Originally, Mr. Schnauber was going to release monarchs in Portland
> on the 4th of July.  His sponsors cancelled when contacted by the Xerces
> Society about the pseudoscientific, potentially damaging nature of the
> release.  He then released painted ladies at Centralia, Wash. on the 4th,
> effectively invalidating any further W. Wash. records for that species in
> 1997, a year of very sparse painted lady influx.  Now he has followed up
> with a large release of monarchs and painted ladies at the W. Wash. State
> Fair.  Members of the Northwest Lepidopterists Association contacted the
> responsible fair official about the down side of the stunt. She was
> appalled, and promised to reconsider carefully before next year, but said it
> was too late to stop it.
>         Mr. Schnauber says "data on the release will be studied for the
> purpose of determining the migration of the Monarchs from Western Washington
> to California."  But as all thoughtful biologists and naturalists recognize,
> transferred monarchs CANNOT reveal anything reliable about what monarchs
> originating in the release zone will do in migration.  In the absence of any
> scientific controls whatsoever, this is no experiment: merely a gimmick, and
> an exercise in manipulating the movements of wild animals for PR purposes.
> His premise is entirely faulty, and will not help to illuminate monarch
> migration.
>         Mr. Schnauber wrote that "educated individuals" say monarchs "don't
> go" to Portland.  If anyone would like a detailed account of monarch and
> milkweed distribution in the Northwest, please read my piece in the August
> "Monarch Newsletter" of the Monarch Program.  We have long documented
> monarchs' occasional occurrence in Portland and points north, in years of
> strong immigration.  Bits of introduced milkweed occur along railroad
> rights-of-way and in other weedy sites in this zone, but the normal
> Washington distribution of A. speciosa and A. fascicularis lies east of the
> Skamania County/Yakima County western borders -- far east of Portland and
> the Puget Trough.  I confirmed that again this year.  It is interesting that
> one of his releases traveled to Portland and was recovered, but it is also
> exactly what one would expect.  Mr. Schnauber makes the muddled comment that
> "Portland, Oregon seems to be on the migration path for the Monarchs coming
> south from western Washington, and not west of the cascades as some have
> suggested."  Of course, such a path IS west of the Cascades.  What Lincoln
> Brower and I suggested at the 1997 Lepidopterists' Society meeting in New
> Haven is that some monarchs from the area east of the Cascades and west  of
> the Rockies may be traveling to Mexico, not California.  Of course we would
> expect that a California monarch released in western Washington would likely
> return to California, passing through western Oregon on the way.  
>         Again, Mr. Schnauber's stunt proves nothing new scientifically, nor
> is it capable of doing so.  Instead, he has conducted an act of scientific
> vandalism.  In the most exciting monarch season for years in the Northwest,
> he has rendered all sight records for the rest of the autumn in western
> Washington and Oregon invalid, unless tags are recovered.  Most of our
> records are sight reports, and for the rest of the fall, these will be
> unreliable.  This is a great pity, in a year when we had a good start on
> monitoring indigenous monarch movements in the Northwest corner of the country.
>         I was heartened to hear Mr. Flanders of USDA asking these hard
> questions in response to the Schnauber release:        
>         "In this particular example, how can the results of the tagging be
> analyzed when the adult monarchs have been artificially transported several
> hundred miles from their original, natural location?  Was this a legitimate
> scientific or educational endeavor?  Were the actual and potential risks
> acceptable relative to the apparent benefits?"  My own answers, and I
> believe those of many of my colleagues, should be clear from the foregoing
> message. 
>         At a time when monarch conservation is a growing concern, we need
> more than ever to understand this animal's natural movements.  Once again, I
> appeal to Mr. Schnauber and others to concentrate on habitat protection for
> their own districts.  If you want to "wow" folks at the fair, do it with
> LOCAL butterflies.  It's harder -- it means you have to do some real natural
> history work, instead of just buying your butterflies like so many widgets
> or potato chips.  But butterflies are more than just living balloons, to be
> strewn to the winds willy nilly for a temporary buzz.  Please don't exploit
> monarchs and the gullible public in this manner, and then call it "research."  
>         Mr. Schnauber invited me to join the advisory board of his
> "international federation."  But we already have a plenitude of fine,
> complementary butterfly organizations.  I urged him instead to put his
> considerable energies and obvious talents to work for one of them, or in his
> own butterfly garden. I still do.  At the very least, I hope he will stop
> muddying the waters for those engaged for many years in carefully
> documenting natural butterfly occurrence in the Pacific Northwest.
>         Thanks for the d-plex forum.
>         Bob Pyle 

Neil Jones- Neil at "The beauty and genius of a work of art
may be reconceived, though its first material expression be destroyed; a
vanished harmony may yet again inspire the composer; but when the last
individual of a race of living things breathes no more another heaven and
another earth must pass before such a one can be again." William Beebe

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