In a follow-up email to DPLEX subscribers, Xerces’ Pelton provided context for the post.
“I continue to end up with an in-box full of horror stories: people driving monarchs to overwintering sites because they raised them too late in the year, moving monarchs across huge geographic areas, caterpillars starving when there’s not enough milkweed in urban areas paired with massive captive-rearing operations, hundreds of monarchs raised en masse, photos of diseased & sick monarchs, etc.”
Other scientists bluntly expressed their sentiments that raising butterflies at home “doesn’t help the migration.”
Andy Davis, an expert on migration at the Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia, posted an article on his Monarchscience blog with the headline “New statement from monarch conservation groups says – For the love of God, stop mass-rearing monarchs in your kitchens!” Davis cited various scientific papers that suggest home reared monarchs are less healthy and don’t make it to Mexico. Note: five of the commercially reared monarch butterflies tagged and released at our Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival last year were recovered in Mexico.
Then the author of one of the papers cited, Gayle Steffy, chimed in that her research was being taken out of context. “Since my paper has been quoted and debated here, I’m adding my opinion, which is that the data do not indicate that wild monarchs are better than raised ones,” Steffy said.
At one point, Anurag Agrawal, chemical ecologist at Cornell and author of Milkweed and Monarchs, declared soberly: “Let’s not kid ourselves that we are helping the population by rearing.The sink full of water has a leak, and yes, we can add a few drops back, but only plugging the leak will help. Sorry for the pessimism, but mass rearing is a flawed strategy for monarch conservation.”
The DPLEX debate left monarch followers’ heads spinning.
For better and for worse, those seeking to learn about raising monarchs responsibly are unaware of or overlooking scientific websites or the DPLEX list in favor of social media destinations like The Beautiful Monarch, a Facebook group with almost 24,000 members. It’s easy to drop in to these sites, ask a question and/or post a photo and come back later for an answer without investing too much time or energy.