Subspecies and protection

Paul Cherubini cherubini at
Sun Oct 15 09:51:57 EDT 2000

Ken Philip wrote:

> It looks as if the Saline Valley sites are not the ones being 
> talked about in Ottawa in 1986. Those sites were all fatal to 
> the Monarchs that stopped off at them. 

The author's of the 1986 paper visited three monarch cluster
sites in the Saline Valley of the Mojave desert during the 
month of November: the Hunter Creek site, the McElvoy 
Canyon site and the Willow Creek site. These are the same 
sites I monitored not just in November, but in late January and
early February as well.

The authors of the 1986 paper are mistaken if they said
all three sites were fatal to the monarchs that stopped
off at them. I have the photos that  show the butterflies survive
the low humidity, near zero rainfall, lack of subtantial tree cover,
predators etc.  These authors also claimed the butterflies were 
in poor physical condition. Again, my photos show they are 
in excellent condition, even in late winter.

Why such a big difference between my observations and
the 1986 authors? 

Perhaps environmental politics is involved here. 
Two of the 1986 authors are members of the screaming 
"fire in the theater" monarch inner circle.  I mean the "click" 
of monarch scientists who are constantly preaching to us that 
overwintering monarchs likely have extremely exacting
microclimatic habitat requirements and any alteration of such
habitats due to human activity  (building nearby roads, homes,
shopping centers, airports, minor tree thinning, etc.) could 
be fatal to the butterflies. For two decades these scientists 
have been using THEORETICAL arguments like these to 
support their opinions rather than real world field 
observations or mortality measurements. Dr. Chip Taylor did 
this just last week on this list when he wrote (capitals my 

"Consequences of forest degradation at the overwintering sites 
in Mexico which have not received attention are increases in mean
as well as maximum and minimum temperatures. Slight changes
COULD HAVE a subtle, yet significant, impact on mortality of 
the overwintering monarchs." "Degradation of the forest results a 
drying up of the area and it is PROBABLE that the dew point is
reached less often." "The average lipid masses of the arriving 
butterflies PROBABLY varies from year to year due to the 
availability of nectar during the fall." 

The "fire in the theater" camp seems unwilling to publicly
acknowledge the real world field evidence. Examples: monarch 
winter survival in the deserts and the big difference in winter
climate within the monarchs' overwintering range (San Diego 
is much warmer and drier in fall and winter than San Francisco) 
that suggests overwintering monarchs tolerate a wide range 
macro and microclimates and a wide range tree cover (e.g. 
see tree density table for Mexico below):

                           1986                     1986
COLONY           SIZE            TREES / ACRE

Chincua          1.30 acres            251 trees/acre
El Rosario       5.08 acres           102 trees/acre
Picacho             .66 acre             175 trees/acre
Chivati-Huacal  .44 acre             127 trees/acre
Cerro Pelon     1.21 acres             36 trees/acre
Herrada             .17 acre             290 trees/acre
Palomas             .37 acre            188 trees/acre

Paul Cherubini

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