Butterflies in manicured suburban habitats

Grkovich, Alex agrkovich at tmpeng.com
Mon Jan 21 09:42:02 EST 2002

I spent five years on a tobacco farm as a youth, from 1959 to 1964, near St.
Thomas, Ontario (just north of Lake Erie). There isn't 10% of the numbers of
butterflies today that there was then (and 10% is being liberal, believe

In June 1993, my family and I spent a week at Marco Island, Florida. There
had just finished an intensive "mosquito spraying" program. I saw not one
butterfly on Marco Island, and very few even along the western part of the
Tamiami Trail (Rt. 41). Also, the Naples that I found there was now an ugly,
sprawling metropolis of cheap houses, endless in sight, with nothing left of
any natural habitat; not the beautiful, still quite wild Naples that was
there was I was a college student in the late 60's early 70's. No wonder
everything in south Florida is in trouble.

Folks, God's lovely creation is in deep trouble. There is no question about

> -----Original Message-----
> From:	Barb Beck [SMTP:barb at birdnut.obtuse.com]
> Sent:	Friday, January 11, 2002 2:11 PM
> To:	monarch at saber.net; leps-l at lists.yale.edu
> Subject:	RE: Butterflies in manicured suburban habitats
> Paul and the rest on leps-l
> Maybe in the last few years you have seen what you consider to be lots of
> Monarchs overwintering in the area but believe me it is nothing like the
> numbers that were there in the 40s and 50s.  My father-in-law was a ranger
> at Natural Bridges and my husband worked there some as a kid.  Of course
> at
> that time Natural Bridges still had the bridges and Santa Cruz was still
> miles away from the park.  We are talking about a time when California
> still
> only had a few million inhabitants, crystal clear air and a lot of the San
> Joaquin valley floor that was still in Oak Grass Woodland and rivers and
> streams that had not been enclosed in concrete.  The agriculture practices
> at the time were far different from the "better living through chemistry"
> agriculture practiced on our ranch today.
> The "hordes" of Monarch you see today are pitiful remnants of what flocked
> to the wintering trees in those times.  Ten years ago we visited my home
> state and Jim went to some of the parks he knew as a kid.  The docent that
> guided us to the butterfly trees in Natural Bridges excitedly prepared us
> for what we were to see by explaining how this was by far the best
> butterfly
> year that had had.  We were astounded to see only a few branches of the
> trees with butterflies... Grandpas photos showed trees completely covered
> with butterflies.  She was not prepared for the looks on our faces when we
> saw how few butterflies were on the trees.
> No Paul - things are not surviving as well as you would like to pretend
> with
> our development.  Are the current numbers of Monarchs adequate to maintain
> the species - probably but we have certainly decreased their numbers.
> As much as suburban sprawl has decreased the natural habitat  expanding
> agriculture to feed the people of this planet has probably taken a far
> greater toll.  Even agricultural practices have changed for the worse for
> butterflies.  One can only imagine the undocumented wetland dependent
> species that have disappeared in the state as it lost most of its
> wetlands.
> The gardens around the house on our ranch are still there.  As a child in
> the 40s I remember the great number of butterflies.  A few I could
> identify
> with a child's butterfly book.  The book explained how to differentiate
> the
> Monarch and Viceroy.  We had both.  The house was surrounded by olive
> orchards under which was planted a cover crop - something like peas or
> turnips.  Large areas of undeveloped valley floor Oak-grass woodland were
> also near by as was our "swamp" - huge oaks covered by large vines (those
> vines were collected by school kids and used in the original Tarzan
> movies).
> The swamp is drained except for a postage size portion set aside by the
> Nature Conservatory and that does not appear to be getting the water it
> naturally got to survive.  The olive and orange orchards are still there
> but
> herbicides kill anything green under the trees and the young orange trees
> which have been planted are sprayed every several weeks for thrips.  The
> roadsides which used to harbour wildflowers (weeds) are now sprayed with
> herbicide to keep weeds from entering the orchards.  Jim and I found 5
> species of butterfly in the area when we were there for several days a
> couple years ago.  The gardens around the house yielded only Fiery
> Skippers
> and one Anise Swallowtail.  We went to the Nature Conservancy plot and
> worked along the St. Johns River checking the riparian area.  This yielded
> three more butterflies of three species.  One was a cabbage and I have to
> look up notes to see the other two.  These were the results we obtained
> for
> about 15 hours of stalking these critters.  I do not think that even you
> would consider this the diversity of butterflies we should have found in
> this area.  This is what is hanging on.
> As far as I know there is no record of what was in this area when I was a
> kid.  Grandpa had photos and I am sure others had those of the butterflies
> at those times in Natural Bridges.  I have asked Jims sister for the
> photos
> but so far she has not found them. I see that Viceroys are not even on the
> map of California in that area.  Does anybody even know their former range
> in the state?  That is why the Becks push people in our adopted province
> to
> get out and try to document what we have here in Alberta, that is why
> Alberta holds more butterfly counts than any other area of North America.
> That is why even though I really hate to collect a butterfly and count
> mainly with binoculars, I also carry a net to make sure of some difficult
> id
> and take specimens when absolutely necessary of those which need further
> study.  I send them to qualified  people who are willing to work on them.
> People do not realize how fast an area can change.  The population of
> Alberta is about what the population of California was when I was a kid.
> Barbara Beck
> Adjunct Professor
> Department of Renewable Resources
> University of Alberta
> Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-leps-l at lists.yale.edu [mailto:owner-leps-l at lists.yale.edu]On
> Behalf Of Paul Cherubini
> Sent: January 11, 2002 5:52 AM
> To: leps-l at lists.yale.edu
> Subject: Butterflies in manicured suburban habitats
> Ron wrote:
> > I bet a lot of people in the Keys area who want to see
> > the cute little blue protected are unknowingly killing them
> > off by making sure the ugly Balloon Vine stays off their
> > yard's fence, golf course, highway right of way, and any
> > where else that might ugly up the renowned manicured look
> > most of south Florida loves.
> I agree Ron, in regard to the Miami Blue. Some other kinds of
> butterflies, however, manage to do fine in manicured suburban
> landscapes. Below, for example, are some photos I took a few
> weeks ago (Dec. 26) at the famous monarch overwintering site
> in Pacific Grove, California.
> 150 years ago relatively few humans lived in Pacific Grove and the
> monarchs overwinterered in undeveloped Monterey Pine forests
> that looked approximately like this:
> http://www.mindspring.com/~cherubini/forest.JPG
> In recent decades, Pacific Grove has been completely built out
> yet the butterflies still come and "butterfly zone" signs are placed in
> the streets: http://www.mindspring.com/~cherubini/butterflygroveinn.JPG
> The monarchs cluster on the limbs of pine trees situated right
> above the roofs of residential homes:
> http://www.mindspring.com/~cherubini/house.JPG
> Here is a closer view of the butterflies clustering above the same roof
> as in the last photo:
> http://www.mindspring.com/~cherubini/pinecluster.JPG
> The monarchs also cluster in Australian eucalyptus trees
> growing in the residential backyards of Pacific Grove:
> http://www.mindspring.com/~cherubini/eucalyptusclusters.JPG
> Monarchs find an ample supply of nectar in the yards of the homes
> and businesses of Pacific Grove:
> http://www.mindspring.com/~cherubini/jewelhouse5.JPG
> http://www.mindspring.com/~cherubini/rosemary%203%20best.JPG
> http://www.mindspring.com/~cherubini/side.JPG
> Monarchs bask on the roofs and siding of the homes.
> Here a front porch hanging planter has lots of monarchs:
> http://www.mindspring.com/~cherubini/hangplanter.JPG
> http://www.mindspring.com/~cherubini/planter2.JPG
> Monarchs also obtain drinking water from the overnight dew
> that developes on residential lawns:
> http://www.mindspring.com/~cherubini/pool.JPG
> Based on this evidence, I think it is reasonable to conclude the
> original forests where monarchs overwinter can be radically altered
> and developed without significant harm to the butterflies. Also it
> seems obvious that overwintering monarchs can coexist with
> intense human activity around them.
> Butterfly conservation organizations don't see it this way. For some
> unknown reason they are unwilling to publicly acknowledge that
> real estate developement and other forms of intense human activity
> are compatible with monarch overwintering.  Instead, they view
> real estate development and human activity as a serious threat to the
> overwintering monarchs.
> Example: Dr. O.R. (Chip) Taylor  says:
> http://www.monarchwatch.org/conserve/index.htm
> "Monarch populations are even more vulnerable in their overwintering
> sites.  In the coastal forests, Monarchs find forests with all the
> right characteristics for overwintering. Many people, however,
> would also like to live along the California coast, which raises
> property values and increases the pressure to build, remove
> trees, and otherwise develop the land. Although there has
> been some progress towards protecting Monarch overwintering
> sites in California, high property values and the resulting pressure to
> develop land along the coast continue to threaten Monarch habitat."
> In February this year I will be going to the monarch overwintering
> sites in Mexico and hope to come back with alot of good photos
> of the monarch situation down there.
> Paul Cherubini
> Placerville, Calif.
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