b-fly releases at events

Anne Kilmer viceroy at gate.net
Thu Sep 23 08:10:27 EDT 1999

I think that even if we prove that butterfly releases annoy and confuse
the scientists, we haven't accomplished much. We need to gather evidence
that they're bad for the ecology. (Or, of course, not.)
The solution to the former question is to tag the bugs. Have every
supplier provide tags to be applied before the butterflies go on their
way, or, in the case of adults, supply them already tagged. 
Then report back to the kids on where their butterflies were found.
This is an imperfect solution, as a tag on a Monarch a thousand feet up
is not very legible. 
It might, however, be possible to create a transparent spot on one wing
where the scales are removed. That might show from a distance, and would
not impede flight or affect the butterfly's social life. 
As to the Painted Ladies, if they're released in Alaska, they probably
die, as do their offspring. 
If they're released in South Florida, they probably survive and
reproduce. They're uncommon here, so you're altering a local population.
Probably doesn't matter much ... with so many people butterfly
gardening, we're jacking up the local populations of a good many
butterflies.  (At the same time, developers are destroying habitat ...
so we're swapping common butterflies for rare ones.)
We do have, in South Florida, a large population of Monarchs that do not
migrate, or so we're told. When you add a substantial crowd of released
migratory Monarchs from Kansas or wherever, what happens? Wouldn't it be
nice to know? 
Here, again, tags would help us find out. Butterfly gardeners are
growing vast quantities of exotic milkweed, so competition for scarce
larval hosts is not an issue. 
One argument we haven't considered is that the non-toxic Monarchs,
reared on Asclepias tuberosa, present a tasty morsel to birds. A fine
symbolic sight at a wedding: seagulls snapping up the butterflies. 
Birds that have eaten a tasty Monarch will check out others, looking for
another good one. So we are destroying the illusions af millions of
birds, and increasing the vulnerability of the Monarch race. 
I am sorry, further, to see the suggestion that we should take in larvae
and rescue them from wasps, ants etc. We disable natural selection when
we do this, and do the butterfly race no favor. 
I'm not saying you can't adopt caterpillars for fun; just don't think
you're "helping Nature". She also loves the wasps. 
My two cents worth ...
Anne Kilmer
South Florida

Cris Guppy & Aud Fischer wrote:
> There is one Painted Lady record in British Columbia that appears to
> indicate that the butterfly successfully overwintered as an adult. The
> capture date is too early for a migrant, but is consistent with other
> species that hibernate as adults. Or is it a "school butterfly?" The answer
> to this would tell us something about the biology of the species.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Paul Cherubini <paulcher at CONCENTRIC.NET>
> To: bugman at bugs.org <bugman at bugs.org>
> Cc: leps-l at lists.yale.edu <leps-l at lists.yale.edu>
> Date: September 22, 1999 10:50 PM
> Subject: Re: b-fly releases at events
> >Mark Berman wrote:
> >
> >> Some schools only release a
> >> few [Painted Ladies], but I have been in schools that released >20 in one
> season.
> >
> >Ok, now were getting some numbers with which to build up a risk model.
> >How many elementary schools are there in Fairbanks, Alaska? Or all of
> >Alaska? How many Painted Ladies are we talking about if each of these
> >schools released 20 Painted Ladies each season?
> >
> >Say there are 20 elementary schools in Fairbanks and each releases 20
> >Painted Ladies over a 3 month period. That's a total of 400 Painted
> >Ladies released over 3 months in the greater Fairbanks area (an area
> >involving several square miles) or an average of about 4 butterflies a
> >day.
> >
> >What is the realistic probability that one of the few Lepidopterists in
> >Fairbanks area is ever going to spot one of these short lived
> >butterflies and cause a false sighting to be entered into the
> >biogeograhical sight record database? A good chance of one false
> >sighting every year? Every 10 years? Every 1000-plus years?  Can someone
> >work through the dispersal math and statistical probabilities involved
> >here?
> >
> >> There are plenty of examples of introductions of non-native species
> >> resulting in major ecological challenges. I'm sure many of you are quite
> >> familiar with most. The impact of these events extends far beyond the
> >> relative value of monitoring programs, sometimes resulting in public
> health
> >> hazards or serious challenges to populations of valuable native
> organisms.
> >
> >The United States Department of Agriculture grants permits for the
> >commercial release of only  NINE, wide ranging, abundant, NATIVE species
> >(e.g. Monarchs, Painted Ladies, Mourning Cloaks, etc).
> >
> >Paul Cherubini, Placerville, California
> >
> >

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