Lots of Butterflies, but No Monarchs on the Llano River this Weekend

It was a disappointing weekend of Monarch tagging.   Again.
This weekend was a repeat of last–with only one Monarch butterfly spotted, none tagged.   I’m betting Monarchs migrated further west.  Or more likely, this year’s crop was extremely thin.  I don’t foresee more tagging weekends this fall.  It’s over.
And honestly, we did not see the masses enjoyed in recent years.   Sightings of 10 – 20 have replaced masses of 100-200.

According to the Journey North website, Monarchs crossed the border into Mexico this week.  That suggests they have passed the Texas funnel.  We may still see singles and strays, but the “massive” migration–a shadow of its former self–has passed.
From Nuevo Leon:  “Today, Monarchs were spotted for miles over three hours in some parts of Monterrey this morning,” wrote Rocio Treviño of Mexico’s Monarch tracking project, Correo Real, on October 23.  Similar bulletins were cited for Coahuila and Tamaulipas.

Tagged Monarch
Tagged Monarch, raised at home. Many of the Monarchs we tagged this year we raised ourselves. Photo by Monika Maeckle
The butterflies have not arrived at their ancestral roosts in the mountains of Michoacán.  On Thursday, Estela Romero, the Journey North correspondent on the ground in Michoacán, reported:

Our graph recording Monarchs’ arrival this week, filled in inside our VW due to the intense rain:   Z E R O on October 24.”

It’s difficult to be optimistic about the future of the Monarch migration.   Every obstacle has been thrown in its path.  Habitat destruction in the flyway, the breeding grounds and the roosting sites.   Drought and climate change messing with the butterflies’ inherent cycles.   Aerial spraying of pesticides and the use of herbicide tolerant crops.   Continued illegal logging in Mexico.
The one good note is that people are paying attention.  We are planting milkweed.   Monarch butterfly festivals are hatching across the hemisphere.  More people are raising butterflies at home.
Last fall, a 3-D IMAX movie, “Flight of the Butterflies” was released, sharing the story of the Monarch migration to rave reviews and multiple awards.  And scientist-turned-eloquent-author Barbara Kingsolver‘s latest novel, “Flight Behavior,” used Monarch butterflies to tackle the complex subject of climate change.

Monarch chrysalises
Happy Monarch butterfly chrysalises.  We fostered many Monarchs from wild eggs and caterpillars this year. Photo by Monika Maeckle
Are Monarch butterflies the panda bears of climate change?   The beloved creatures hold universal appeal.   They don’t sting or bite.  They are beautiful and accessible.  They migrate across three countries, serving as a living metaphor for our innate interconnectedness.
Pandas are endangered, Monarchs are not.  But many would argue that the Monarch migration is rushing toward a dangerous path of extinction.

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4 Responses

  1. Monika U. Moore
    | Reply

    Hi Monika Maeckle,
    Here in Southern Cailfornia Waystation 5375 has released 685 monarchs. From all the doom and gloom being spread I have had the best year ever. Personally if we keep spreading the word around to home gardners to invite a monarch to lunch and plant milkweed we can turn this story around.It is not to late. We just have to engage people with all the fun positives. One thing most people do not realize is monarchs only eat milkweed. So they won’t disturb other plants in there gardens. And they are friendy pollinators. Kids love to be part of this beautiful life cycle. I love when they see a monarch emerage for the first time. The joy and wonder you see in their eyes is so fantastic. Monika you are so much better at writing than I am. Write a piece on all the joys to be shared by metamorphois. All your reads will gladly share it.
    God Bless,
    Monika U. Moore

    • Monika Maeckle
      | Reply

      Thank you for the kind words, Monika with a “k.” In Spanish, when someone shares your name, they are your “tocaya.” That, I suppose, is what we are. We share the “k” in our name and a love for butterflies. Thanks for writing. Monika

  2. Patty Soriano
    | Reply

    Yesterday afternoon (10/28) when I came home there was a small group of monarchs resting in my mesquite trees. I do have gardens and perhaps that is why they stopped here. They were awesome to see, even though there were only two or three dozen that I noticed in one area. I was quite excited to see them at all. I am in Castroville, just west of San Antonio.

    • Monika Maeckle
      | Reply

      Glad to hear that, Patty. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for more. –MM

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