Government views Monarch Butterfly Releases as a threat to We stern Milkweeds

Paul Cherubini monarch at
Fri Dec 7 21:16:28 EST 2001

Kondla, Norbert FOR:EX wrote:
> As I understand it the USDA regulators do not need any scientific evidence
> to make their decisions; the record suggests they are based on off-the-wall
> speculation that something bad might happen. I am still amazed that anyone
> with more than two brain cells could consider the Monarch an agricultural
> plant pest and hence worthy of attention by an agriculture agency. Pure
> madness :-) -- good luck in trying to reason with the geniuses who dreamed
> up this pointless regulation of organisms that are not agricultural plant
> pests :-)

Norbert, the source of the off-the-wall speculation that something bad
might happen from monarch releases is actually coming from certain 
members of the academic community who provide advice and
recommendations to the USDA. 
See post below:
Date:  Fri, 07 Dec 2001 15:46:16 -0600
Reply-to: dplex-l at
From: "Karen Oberhauser" <Karen.S.Oberhauser-1 at> 
To: MonEd at, dplex-l at
CC: Wayne.F.Wehling at
Subject: Re: [MonEd] CNN report 6 Dec 01

An outcome of the new regulations would be to prevent the release of
monarchs where they [their genotype] do not naturally occur.  This 
seems to me to be a good outcome, even though it is not the purpose 
of the regulation.  

Despite widespread claims to the contrary, there is evidence that 
monarchs become genetically differentiated by the end of the summer, 
suggesting either local adaptation or non-adaptive genetic drift (see Eanes and 
Koehn 1978, Evolution 32:784-797. An analysis of the genetic structure in the
monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus L).  Widespread releases of 
non-local stock could make further studies of this structure difficult, and there 
is a slight, although admittedly small, chance that it would have a 
negative impact on monarchs.  For the above reasons, we do not ship 
monarchs out of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

While the general thrust of most arguments I've seen on the list is 
that the rules are bad because harm from movement of monarchs has 
not been proven, it seems to me that it makes most sense to put the burden of 
proof on the other side, and say that we should not move them long distances
until it's been shown that it won't have negative impacts. 

If releasing monarchs near endangered plants has even the slightest chance of 
hurting those plants, we shouldn't do it. 

If shipping monarchs from Minnesota to Maine has even the slightest
chance of disupting genetic structure, or  of making it difficult to study that 
structure, I don't think we should do it.

Dr. Karen Oberhauser
University of Minnesota
Department of Ecology
1987 Upper Buford Circle
St. Paul MN  55108
612 624-8706  fax: 612 624-6777


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