Government views Monarch Butterfly Releases as a threat to Western Milkweeds

Erik Runquist erunquist at
Fri Dec 7 14:24:15 EST 2001

  One more angry voice from the balcony.  My family has raised monarchs for 
schools for the last 12 years after taking over the business from a local 
retired teacher that had done it for 30 years before that.  Most of our 
schools are limited to the Pacific Northwest, and in the entire history of 
the business there has been absolutely ZERO advertising.  It wants to grow 
by 15% a year, if we had the physical ability, and this is ENTIRELY by word 
of mouth!!  Monarchs in the classroom have been a tradition in some of our 
schools for almost 30 consecutive years, and teachers always say that 
monarchs are an incredibly vital tool to get kids enthused about the school 
year each September.  "Life Cycles,"  and thus monarchs, are practically 
written into the teaching code in the State of Washington, and we've 
estimated that in the history of our business, over 1 MILLION kids have had 
monarchs in the classroom.  The huge majority of those kids say that 
monarchs were the most exciting and interesting thing that they do in the 
classroom each year.  Is there a better tool for getting kinds interested in 
the natural world than a real, live, gaudy monarch emerging from the 
chrysalis after a week of building antipation?  Not to mention the release 
events that are often cause for the entire school to go out and watch! We 
call them "Ambassadors of Nature."
  I could care less if our business was shut down, we certainly do not do it 
for the meager "profit!"  I do care about the kids though, and the loyal 
traditions we've built.  Doesn't USDA have bigger fish to fry? How about 
fire ants, glassy-winged sharpshooters, brazillian pepper, or Asian 
Long-horn beetles?  USDA has required us to get permits for every state west 
of the continental divide (we can't ship east of the impenetrable divide, 
because of course, you realize they are practically a different species over 
there, right?), which of course we have complied with, but getting a permit 
to ship them back to California where they're parents came from? Hell, I 
live just 10 miles north of the California border, why don't I just drive 
over I-5 and mail them from there and not bother to pay the permit fee?  
They (or their genes) will be moving that way anyway right?
  The whole situation is really frustating and only is getting in the way of 
environmental eduation.
  I also find it ironic that many milkweeds are considered to be exactly 
that, WEEDS by the government, but that's a whole other story.
Erik Runquist
Monarch Magic
Ashland OR

>New Rules May Hurt Butterfly Releases
>By PAUL RECER, AP Science Writer
>WASHINGTON (AP) - It's been a moment of awe for thousands of
>schoolchildren: A cage is opened and a brand new Monarch butterfly flashes 
>bright orange and black wings and flutters into the wild.
>But it is also a scene that could become illegal, the victim of a federal
>bureaucracy eager to protect threatened Western milkweeds.
>Farmers who raise Monarchs for profit and ship them to other states say
>proposed Agriculture Department regulations would forbid release of the
>butterflies into the wild.
>"Schoolchildren could still raise the butterflies. But then they would have 
>to kill
>them,'' Pennsylvania butterfly raiser Rick Mikula said Wednesday.
>The regulations also threaten a growing fad, marking festive occasions by
>releasing hundreds of adult Monarchs into the breeze.
>USDA officials said the regulations are required to protect members of the
>milkweed family of plants, the favored food of Monarch larvae.
>Wayne Wehling, a USDA specialist in plant-feeding insects, said at least 
>milkweed species in Oklahoma and in Arizona are endangered. Allowing
>unregulated interstate shipment and release of the butterfly, Wehling said,
>could tip the balance against the plants, on which the migrating Monarch
>habitually lays its eggs.
>In effect, the USDA is squeezed between a federal law protecting endangered
>plants and the growing popularity of commercial butterfly farming.
>"It's a real Catch-22,'' said Wehling.
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