Sunday, September 1, 2013

Where are the Monarchs?

I thought I had finally seen a monarch butterfly this summer when I spotted this bright orange and black butterfly near the Beaver River in Clarksburg.  Managed a few pictures of it, mostly hidden behind the Joy-Pye-Weed.  But alas, when I got it home and enlarged it a bit, it's a viceroy, not a monarch - nothing against the viceroys, but where are the monarchs?!

You can identify this as a viceroy by the black line in the middle of the hind wings, which is absent in the monarch.  Citizens and scientists all across the mid-west and eastern Canada are concerned about the dramatic drop in the monarch population this year.  One report indicated 90% fewer monarchs than last year!  

 
Reports put the decline down to the severe drought in the mid-west last year, to the cold wet spring in eastern Canada this year, and to the increasing use of round-up and neonictinide pesticides on fields of corn which used to allow for weeds like milkweed along the edge - but no more, with widespread 'clean' farming.

You can watch the progress of the monarch migration on the website 'Monarch Butterfly Journey North', a citizen science website where you can submit your own observations.  It even has maps that show the pattern of the migration.  Could we be seeing the beginning of the end of the monarch butterfly?

This is another butterfly I've seen this summer, one I didn't know before, the Red-Spotted Purple sub-species of the White Admiral.  It looks like a totally different species to me, with the blue on the wings, but the guide says the two are just sub-species.  In fact, this one does look like it's half-way in between based on the book I have, with a bit of a white band through both the upper and lower surface of the fore-wing.

Summer's over now, and early fall is here, but it will be a sad summer to remember if it turns out to be the start of the loss of the amazing monarch butterfly.  No other species that we know of migrates the 4000 km the monarch does, over 3-4 generations of butterflies - how does the future generation know to go back to Mexico when it's never been there!!??

23 comments:

  1. I have not seen a single Monarch this year.
    David Gascoigne
    Waterloo, ON
    www.travelswithbirds.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If we could get all the bird watchers to also watch for monarchs. ...?

      Delete
  2. I don't know if I've ever seen a Monarch here. That is so sad and really tragic that they are disappearing. The photos of these butterflies are beautiful. So pretty.

    ReplyDelete
  3. No monarchs here either. A price of our over-developed pesticide-laden world.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Now that you mention it, I haven't seen much of our usual butterflies this summer either, let alone monarchs. Rats.
    Your white admiral morph is gorgeous. I'd never heard of them before.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've enjoyed keeping track of the ones I see over the season.

      Delete
  5. I just finished "Flight Behavior" by Barbara Kingsolver yesterday. It's a fictional story about monarchs coming to Appalachia because their habitat was destroyed. And then I read this. Your pictures are so lovely. Let's hope that monarchs will survive, they are so beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So many of us have raised monarch caterpillars and watched the butterfly emerge. I think that's what makes it a favourite species.

      Delete
  6. Your photos are just gorgeous. I do hope the Monarchs survive.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I can count on one hand the number of monarchs I've seen this season here in Massachusetts. The numbers are way, way down.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Lovely butterflies and images! I have not seen one Monarch this season. Have a happy day!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I joined Monarch Watch 4 years ago and added a Monarch Way Station. I was lucky to be able to raise monarchs from eggs that I watched being laid on my milkweed for 2 years. This year I was so looking forward to it as I had cancer surgery this spring (cancer free) and looked forward to it.. Not one monarch, not one egg.

    Dr. Chip Taylor gave a really good talk on video that explains cleary why we are seeing a reduction in monarchs and why the migration may end in the future.. http://www.loudounwildlife.org/blog/2013/08/new-video-chip-taylor-of-monarch-watch/

    It is very sad..I haven't even seen a viceroy....Michelle

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think I need to start spreading milkweed seeds.

      Delete
  10. I saw and photographed a monarch uesterday. BUT there truly is a serious decline in numbers this year. The "smarter" humans get, the stupider they become, I fear. Humans are not good at taking hints and only respond when hit over the head, which is often too late.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it gets really discouraging sometimes.

      Delete
  11. Oh so that's how you tell the difference between the monarch and the viceroy. I could never tell the difference. Thanks!!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Now you know, yes the thicker black line across the hind wing marks the Viceroy according to my field guide.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I've seen only one in S.E. Ontario. You must have been so disappointed.
    Cheers from Cottage Country Ontario

    ReplyDelete