Dr. Sears, Monarchs, Bt corn

Chip Taylor chip at ukans.edu
Mon Oct 9 17:11:01 EDT 2000

Ron Gatrelle provides and interesting and dramatic scenario of the 
potential impact of offering a small incentive (50 pesos about $5) to 
the guides at the monarch overwintering sites in Mexico for each tag 
they recover. We've thought about the issue raised by Mr. Gatrelle 
and many more.

Most of the tags are recovered from dead butterflies. About half of 
the monarchs die, many killed by birds, at the overwintering sites 
during the course of the winter. The guides scan the dead butterflies 
as they lead tourists through the colonies. They also collect tags 
from living butterflies as the butterflies visit water sources. The 
butterflies at the seeps are often cold and easily collected. The 
tags are removed from these butterflies and they are released. We 
only need the tags and it is only the tags that are saved by the 
guides. I worried about the possibility of inciting attacks on 
clustered butterflies but as far as I can tell this has not happened 
and I don't think it's likely for several reasons. First, tagged 
butterflies are rare relative to untagged butterflies - 1/2000-5000 
and are extremely hard to spot in dense clusters. In fact, I've never 
seen one in a cluster in Mexico nor has anyone reported such an 
event. Second, if hundreds of butterflies were knocked to the ground 
to find one that was tagged, it would certainly vanish in the 
resulting chaos as all the butterflies tried to escape. In other 
words, disturbing clusters to collect tags is not a viable strategy. 
Third, most of the butterflies are clustered in trees well beyond the 
reach of even the longest net (none of the guides have nets as far as 
I know). Fourth, the guides show a great deal of respect for the 
butterflies and are constantly moving them from the footfalls of 
uncaring tourists. Fifth, it is illegal to disturb the clustered 
butterflies unless one has a permit and only a few people have 
permits. My sense is that guides who violated this restriction would 
be in trouble with their peers.

The guides who search consistently report that they find 1-2 tags per 
search day (about 4-5 hours). This search effort is too intensive for 
many of the guides and they don't even bother searching. Although the 
guides make far too little (about $10 per day) neither they nor their 
families are destitute. The 50 pesos for each tag is a small 
compensation for their efforts. No one is going to be able to provide 
for their family by collecting tagged monarchs - there are too few 
tagged monarchs and our budget for recoveries is too limited.

If it became clear that if clustered butterflies were being disturbed 
to collect the tags, I would stop the incentive program. There is no 
evidence of such disturbances at this time.

>For information on our tagging program and the many things we are 
>learning from tagging, please visit our web site 
>www.monarchwatch.org. The PDF files of the last two Season Summaries 
>contain discussions about the recovery program. Estimates of 
>population size and mortality during the migration are now possible 
>(see the SS's) because the incentive we provide has increased the 
>number of tags recovered from 15-20 per yr to 689 last year. 
>Typically, 60-100 million monarchs overwinter in Mexico each year.

Chip Taylor
Director of Monarch Watch.

>      How about this for a REAL threat to monarchs. At the recent
>Lepidopterists' Society international meeting in North Carolina this August
>it was stated (by the monarch specialist in charge of the program) that the
>Mexican people in the monarch over-wintering area were being PAID FOR TAGS
>believe this when I heard it! Are these researchers so absolutely dumb that
>they think the only monarchs from which the tags are being taken are those
>which "died of natural causes." Don't they know that poor people, who can
>barely feed their own children, are going to SHAKE EVERY MONARCH OUT OF
>TRADE THEM IN FOR CASH AND THE CASH FOR FOOD! If you're a hungry family in
>Mexico your kids are worth a whole lot more then BUGS!  North American
>scientists have now made the monarch over-wintering trees into MONEY TREES!


Monarch Watch
Email:  monarch at ukans.edu
WWW:  http://www.MonarchWatch.org/
Dplex-L:  send message "info Dplex-L" to Listproc at ukans.edu
Phone:  1 (888) TAGGING (toll-free!) -or- 1 (785) 864 4441
Fax:  1 (785) 864 4441 -or- 1 (785) 864 5321
Snail:  c/o O.R. Taylor, Dept. of Entomology, Univ. of KS, Lawrence KS 66045

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