A Skipper Out of Sync With Its Nectar Source?

A September 2021 photo of a fresh Leonard’s Skipper in Savage River State Forest, MD:Garrett Co [photo by Lydia Fravel]

This is likely to be the weekend that the first Leonard’s Skipper shows up at Soldiers Delight serpentine barrens in Baltimore Co.  Last week they were AWOL but it was a terrific field experience for folks wanting to nail the ID differences between Crossline, Tawny-edged, Swarthy, Little Glassywing, and Sachem.  Liatris in some places was at peak (1-2-1/3 bloomed out) with a few just beginning to flower and a few pretty much done for.  Remember that unlike most flowers, Liatris blooms from the top down on the inflorescence.  

However, we know from a lot of observations in PA and some excellent sleuthing last year by Lydia and Dennis Fravel in Garrett Co that there are mountain/Appalachian spine populations of this large, handsome skipper as well, and Kathy Barylski reported it in flight in Canaan Valley during the middle of August this year.  Whether these represent as yet unstudied cryptic or sibling species is something to consider.  

The Soldiers Delight population is of special concern because it appears that it is increasingly out of sync in that location with the peak bloom of Liatris, which is pretty much the only common nectar source there this time of year.  Hot dry weather and drought increasingly push the bloom earlier or fry out the plants before Leonard’s is fully on the wing.  

Liatris sp. in bloom along the Choate Mine Trail last week at Soldiers Delight. This one is about half bloomed out — the plants bloom from the top of the spike down, so all those “flowers” at the top of the stem are already spent.
Posted in climate change, conservation, general butterfly news, sightings, taxonomy | Leave a comment

“Big Years” in the age of iNaturalist

Tom Stock and Beth Johnson picking up our 2013 MD100 sighting of Bronze Copper.

Long-time readers of LepLog will remember that Tom Stock and I did a “Butterfly Big Year” effort for Maryland in 2013. Tom gave a terrific keynote presentation on this Big Year last fall at the 2021 Texas Butterfly Festival that some of you may have been fortunate to attend.

At the time, we called it the “MD100 Project” because, realistically, we thought it would be hard to reach that milestone. And it was, although we both ended up just over the mark with 105 and 102 species respectively. The first 90 were relatively straightforward, with just a little bit of luck and timing. The next 10+ were like pulling teeth.

And so far that record stands.

In 2013, most of the real-time butterfly observation was informed by personal emails/word of mouth, reports on listservs about things being seen, and historical records of species’ occurrence. It was a hard slog, sometimes tracking down locations and details that were never committed to writing in the first place, or even if they were, were still sitting in someone’s file drawer or computer hard drive and weren’t shared publicly.

In the decade since, however, butterfly observers have a tremendous leg up over our efforts in 2013. iNaturalist in particular provides a wealth of information (and has a good five or so years of data since it came into widespread use), although some of the sightings are suspect and some observers opt not to share date or locality data. eButterfly and BAMONA are also in much wider use, as are various butterfly, insect, and natural history pages on Facebook.

In this information-rich environment, given time and energy and transportation (it took me 5 trips to the Eastern Shore to snag King’s Hairstreak in 2013), a more realistic target should probably be 110 species for Maryland. A number of previously rare or local species are expanding their range (i.e., Carolina satyr), we have better data on some historically occurring species (Two-spotted Skipper, Hoary Elfin), we know more about the biology of some species that might make them easier to observe (adult gall feeding by canopy hairstreaks like Edwards’, King’s, and Early, for example) and we have new locations for a number of other hard-to-come-by specialties (Leonard’s Skipper, Pepper and Salt Skipper, Silver-bordered Fritillary, Northern Azure, and the cocyta-group crescents, whatever they turn out to be).

So it’s a good time to be contemplating a Butterfly Big Year no matter where you live — which I may do again once I retire; doing this while holding down a full time job as Tom and I did is not for the faint-hearted! Let’s just set the bar a little higher to account for the new ease of accessing observation records.

Posted in general butterfly news, maryland, sightings | Leave a comment

A banner year for Northern Metalmarks

We just wrapped up the 2022 NABA annual count for Green Ridge State Forest this past weekend; after a soggy cold front washed out our original date of July 9 we were very happy with a glorious Sunday in the field. The special focus of the this count is always the health and status of one of the country’s more robust populations of Northern Metalmarks, Calephelis borealis, which for us is a shale barren specialist with a very restricted host plan (round-leaved ragwort, also a shale barren obligate).

Preliminary numbers suggest we surpassed our previous high count, 201, by about 10 more — and added a couple more locations where this butterfly holds out in Green Ridge. They are generally a butterfly adapted to flat flowers, especially woodland sunflowers, but we also observed them on oxeye daisy, early goldenrod, orange butterflyweed, and a mountain mint (although in the latter case they may have just been perched, not nectaring — it doesn’t fit the “expected” flower form.

Posted in conservation, endangered species, Field Trips/Annual Counts, general butterfly news, sightings | Leave a comment

The “obscured data” problem

Many citizen science platforms now permit users to automatically obscure (or set to private) the locations at which they made observations of flora and fauna, including butterflies. Many of you have likely seen the lively conversation on the MDLepsOdes Google Group over the past weeks about the rationale(s) for and against blocking locality data for butterfly and ode species.

The Toronto Entomologists’ Association (TEA), which maintains the Ontario Butterfly Atlas, recently made a decision about excluding obscured or private coded data from the Atlas, a move that is likely to be copied by other local and regional groups who deal with ingesting iNat and other citizen science platform data. In short, the Atlas will no longer ingest geoprivate data.

Rick Cavasin, a long-time reader of LepLog, authored a blog on this new policy that is now published to the iNaturalist pages; it is reprinted here with his permission.


A note about “Geoprivacy” and the TEA’s Ontario Butterfly Atlas

The TEA maintains an online Atlas of Butterfly observations for the province of Ontario. The Atlas aggregates observations from a number of sources, including iNaturalist. In recent years, iNaturalist users have made increasing use of the “Geoprivacy” setting to obscure the locations of their observations. In the past, the Ontario Butterfly Atlas was able to include obscured observations if observers granted project curators permission to “see” their hidden locations. In 2021, iNaturalist changed how they handle obscured observations, and now iNaturalist obscures both the location and the date of these observations. Because of this change, and the increasing concern around privacy settings in general, the Ontario Butterfly Atlas will no longer include obscured observations in our database, even when the observer has granted us permission to “see” the precise location/date of these observations.

With thousands of observations posted to iNaturalist every year, we don’t have the resources to keep track of who is “OK” with the level of information that the Atlas reveals and who is not. The TEA simply can’t take the risk of revealing information about observations that observers want or need to keep hidden. Therefore, the safest course of action is for the Atlas is to simply exclude all iNaturalist observations where the Geoprivacy is set to obscured (or private). Long time contributors to the Ontario Butterfly Atlas who want to see their observations included in the Atlas should consider whether obscuring their observations is really necessary. There are certainly a number of circumstances where it’s the appropriate thing to do, but only in very rare circumstances is it because the butterfly in question needs “protection”.

In summary, if you obscure your observations using the Geoprivacy setting, the Ontario Butterfly Atlas will not include those observations. Furthermore, I will no longer verify the identifications of these observations (because TANSTAAFL).

Please note that this policy will (eventually) be applied retroactively to all observations in the Atlas database, so long term contributors may see some of their older observations “disappear” from the Atlas if those observations have the Geoprivacy setting set to “obscured” or “private”.

Also note that I’m not telling anybody that they shouldn’t use the Geoprivacy setting. What I’m saying is, if you ask that your observations be obscured, the Atlas project will respect your request. Just consider whether it’s what you really want.

For those who are OK with the level of detail revealed by the Butterfly Atlas, but don’t want to set the Geoprivacy on their iNat observations to “open”, there is a solution. Observers can submit their observations to the Atlas Project using a spreadsheet. Contact me (rcavasin) for details.

Posted by rcavasin rcavasin, December 17, 2021 14:38


Editor’s note: TANSTAAFL = “There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch”

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Where do Edwards’ Hairstreaks go when there is no nectar?

A very fresh Edwards’ Hairstreak on a leaf of Quercus ilicifolia, scrub oak, in west-central MD [2022 July 2, photo by Walt Gould]

The recent excellent spate of mid-Atlantic sightings of Edwards’ Hairstreak, Satyrium edwardsii, all come from areas where there is currently no or little nectar. I’ve only seen them nectaring twice in the past decade, both times on a single plant of orange butterflyweed, and that just can’t sustain a colony as large as the one we’ve been monitoring in Frederick Co. MD.

So what do the adults feed on? They hang around in the field for a long time — a month or so, and must be eating something. But what, and where? Like many related Satyrium hairstreaks like King’s and Northern Oak, they are most readily seen in early morning basking on flat, wide leaves on or near their host plants. Then by mid-morning, poof! As if on cue they all disappear up into the canopy. This has earned them the reputation of rare butterflies.

But a paper I missed when it came out suggests an answer to the puzzle — AND holds out the prospect that these hairstreaks are not as rare as we thought.

Writing in the July 2016 Annals of the Entomological Society of America, Benedict Gagliardi and David Wagner document adults of four congeneric Satyrium hairstreaks (S. calanus, S. caryaevorus, S. edwardsii, and S. liparops) feeding at pip galls on Quercus ilicifolia made by the cynipid gall wasp Callirhytis balanacea. And by using burlap bands on oak trunks to census the caterpillars rather than holding out for the scarcely encountered adults, they posit that these butterflies are much more common that our poor adult sightings records would indicate. Their research focused primarily on Northern Oak Hairstreak and its conservation needs.

“[T]he use of such [non-nectar] resources, combined with canopy-dwelling behavior, may yield an impression of great rarity, and … conservation agencies seeking legal protection for S. f. ontario may want to do so guardedly,” they suggest.

Pip gall on a scrub oak leaking the sugary secretion which attracts ants, which in turn defend the oak from insect herbivory (and appear to provide a nectar source for Edwards’ Hairstreak). Photo courtesy of Charley Eiseman’s terrific web resource on insect galls and mines, BugTracks [https://bugtracks.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/acorn-pip-galls/]

Download the original paper:

See also the nice lay language coverage of the paper in Entomology Today. There’s also a nice description of scrub oak (aka bear oak) ecology and habitat needs on the International Oak Society website.

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A Farewell to the Weekly Almanac and Forecast

Happy Independence Day, everyone!

I hope I am not hijacking the meaning of the holiday by declaring something of an Independence Day for myself as well. 

I am sad but also relieved to report that the July 2 issue of the LepLog Almanac will be its last. It’s been a good decade’s run, but the landscape has changed tremendously since that first Forecast was published, and changed in ways that has made it both harder to pull this report together and probably less vital to its readers. So my weekly letter to the community about notable sightings in the mid-Atlantic is ending.

When I first started the weekly report as a feature on LepLog, there was no iNaturalist, eButterfly hadn’t really been refined to be friendly to most observers (some would say it still isn’t), and MBP was in its infancy. I was able to put together the weekly report only because a dedicated field team of about 30 other lepidopterists regularly and unstintingly sent me reports of things they had seen, or shared with me locations and information for uncommon or poorly known species. They have my eternal gratitude — and should have yours. 

Today, the number of these regular reporters is about 5. Most of the sightings that used to come to me now go on Facebook (which has a plethora of butterfly and insect pages) or on iNaturalist. The weekly Almanac/Forecast is now a clerical slog I do through iNaturalist, BAMONA, Facebook, and the few remaining active butterfly listservs. 

Folks, this is no longer a fun job. I’m just digesting things from online you can find for yourself. I also find the richness of the reporting I can do for you seriously compromised by the meager information available from these new sources — many people (or even the platforms themselves) obscure or simply fail to provide the kinds of details that would let other naturalists share their experiences or sightings.

This doesn’t mean LepLog itself is going away. I’ll still be posting about new research, observations, and findings in the Lep and related naturalist communities. Interpreting, translating into plain language, and sharing that kind of information is still something I am quite passionate about. I’m also on Twitter as @LepTreks, so you can follow me there as well. And of course a decade of weekly editions of the Almanac/Forecast are still available.

I will also continue (for now at least) to maintain the MDLepsOdes discussion listserv on GoogleGroups. This truly is meant to be the place where like minded naturalists can share sightings and observations so that we can help anyone in the MD (and surrounding region) butterfly and odes communities to find, ID, and contribute observations about our rich fauna. And I hope it remains a way to instill the joy and passion for butterflies and odes that energized us all in the first place as field mentors and trip leaders gave us our first leg up understanding butterflies. Readers of the Almanac are welcome to join up (just Google us for sign-up instructions) if generous sharing of butterfly information with your colleagues aligns with your personal values. But please be prepared to share as well as take information from the group. While we’ve had some lively discussion on LepLog, the MDLepsOdes listserv is really designed for these extended conversations.

It’s been a great experience getting to know so many of you, and I leave the weekly sense-making of iNat and Facebook data in your and the Metaverse’s capable hands!

Posted in almanac, Forecasts, general butterfly news, sightings | 12 Comments

Butterfly Almanac and Forecast for Week of 2022 July 2

A fresh Bronze Copper in tidal marshes along the Nanticoke River [2022 June 30, photo by REB]

Highlights this week: Bronze Copper, Fiery Skipper, Common Wood-nymph, Gray Comma, Juniper Hairstreak, Carolina Satyr, Hessel’s Hairstreak, Ocola Skipper, Clouded Skipper, Hickory Hairstreak

This week saw emergence of second broods of some butterflies we missed in their first generation this season. Bronze Copper, Gray Comma, and Carolina Satyr all showed up, albeit tardily, on observation lists in the area this week.

Some evidence of migration also popped up in the week’s rolls, including Little Yellow, Cloudless Sulphur, and building numbers of American Snouts (which could be recent migrants or progeny of earlier arrivals). Ocola Skipper and Clouded Skipper both showed up this week, more or less right on time. It’s interesting to note that Clouded Skipper typically shows up just as bindweeds and morning glories begin to bloom for the summer, and one often finds the skippers deep in the throats of these large, tubular corollas. Fiery Skipper seems to be overspreading the region.

Satyrium species have generally been slow to arrive this season, but observers this week picked up Edwards’ Hairstreak, which we usually expect in early June. Coral Hairstreaks are enjoying a pretty good year, apparently, with half a dozen fresh ones on milkweed spotted on the Eastern Shore along with a fresh Striped Hairstreak. Banded Hairstreaks were a bit more common. And the discovery of a Hessel’s Hairstreak in Delaware even made the WHYY news (thanks to Tom Stock for the news tip)! A Hickory Hairstreak in VA just made it into the Almanac region.

The current flight of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is a real mixed bag, with tattered individuals of the last flight shoulder to shoulder on buttonbush and buddleia with freshly emerged ones, and with lots of late instar caterpillars still feeding. Zebra Swallowtails were the most abundant butterfly in their habitat on the Eastern Shore of MD this week. Otherwise swallowtails were harder to come by, being mostly between broods.

Not much new on the pierid front not already noted except for a few more Sleepy Oranges. Very low numbers for this species and the aforementioned Cloudless Sulphurs so far this season.

There’s rather a mini-irruption of Red Admirals on some parts of MD’s Eastern Shore just now, a butterfly that has been rather uncommon so far this season. Both Painted and American Ladies were flying this week, with Painted especially more common that normal for the region. Fresh Eastern Commas and Question Marks were noted; they’ll soon make themselves scarce as they aestivate for the hottest days of summer. Common Wood-nymphs were widely reported. For the most part, Little Wood Satyr first brood adults have disappeared; on the Eastern Shore, a fresh flight began just this week. All the expected greater fritillaries were recorded this week, including Atlantis and Aphrodite, along the Appalachian spine. Appalachian Brown numbers grew again this week, while Northern Pearly-eyes were down slightly. Several folks reported Baltimore Checkerspots.

Prognostications: King’s Hairstreak undoubtedly is flying now, although its limited habitat and annoying habit of going up in the canopy by mid-morning cuts down on the number of observations of this sought-after rarity. Great Purple Hairstreak is also due out (I like to think of Great Purple Hairstreaks and Bronze Coppers as usually flying together in similar habitat, their orange and purple contrast reminding one of the Old Nassau Reaction many of us learned in high school chemistry). The first Brazilian Skippers are imminent, too, especially since the uptick in trade of potted cannas from Florida, which trailed off a bit during the height of COVID.

Bonus Pics:

Better late than never, this Edwards’ Hairstreak showed up 2022 June 30 in the Frederick MD watershed [photo by Barry Marts]
This Striped Hairstreak showed up on the lower Eastern Shore of MD on a ditchside patch of milkweed [2022 June 30, photo by REB]

Food for thought: Given that it is high season for summer counts, I thought you might enjoy this recent article from Ecology and Society about who participates in similar activities in Germany and what their motivations are. Summarizing the results, the authors note that the typical participant of the TMD project (a long-term volunteer count) is close to retirement or already retired, male, does not work professionally in entomology, and holds a university degree. Sounds a lot like the NABA counts!

The weekly Almanac captures sightings and butterfly news from the heart of the mid-Atlantic, roughly 3 hours in any direction from DC. Share your observations and questions about regional butterflies here as a comment or, if you’re in Maryland or DC, on MDLepsOdes, the Google Group for field observations of leps and odonates.

Posted in almanac, Forecasts, general butterfly news, sightings | Leave a comment

Butterfly Almanac and Forecast for Week of 2022 June 25

A suitable Solstice image! Coral Hairstreak on its favorite nectar source, butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa, a short milkweed). Caterpillar host is black cherry; the larvae are green suffused with red to blend in with the red-stalked cherry leaves [2022 June 21, photo by Barry Marts]

Highlights: Northern Metalmark, Two-spotted Skipper, Bog Copper, Aphrodite Fritillary, Atlantis Fritillary

After last week’s extended catch-up edition, there weren’t a whole of new FOY entries to the regional rolls this week. Several were early appearances by normally expected species.

Topping the list was a Garrett Co MD report of Two-spotted Skipper, a rare and local species in the Appalachian Spine and regions north. Other skippers of note were Confused and Northern Cloudywings, Common Checkered-skipper, Common Roadside-skipper, and Common Sootywing. Swarthy Skippers were showing up throughout the region. Broad-winged Skippers and Aaron’s Skippers were out in force, and there were a good number of reports also of Delaware Skipper.

The western parts of our region also gave us a nice fritillary trio of Diana, Atlantis, and Aphrodite. Meadow Fritillary and Great Spangled Fritillary were also showing well this week. [And remember: The Regal Fritillary open houses in Ft. Indiantown Gap PA are back on this year: https://ftig.isportsman.net/butterflytours.aspx%5D

Baltimore Checkerspot was observed in a couple of locations this week, and likely more will turn up on the slew of annual counts slated for this weekend. Northern Pearly-eyes and Appalachian Browns were in good supply as well.

One of the earlier-than-expected entrants was a lucky sighting of a lifer Northern Metalmark by a visiting butterfly observer. Bog Copper is also out on the early side. The almost-full Satyrium monte is flying now, with Banded, Striped, Coral, and Oak Hairstreak all being reported in the region. MIA is still King’s Hairstreak, nor has Edwards’ Hairstreak been reported this year.

Checkered White leads the pierid list with a couple sightings, and there are reports also of Sleepy Orange and Cloudless Sulphur.

Prognostications: The next brood of Bronze Copper should be out. Palamedes Swallowtails undoubtedly are on the wing but no one’s been to check on them in their Pocomoke River swamps. Second brood Juniper Hairstreaks should also be emerging. Common Wood Nymph should be looked for in its tall grass meadow habitats, bobbing up and down like a yo-yo.

Bonus Pic:

A rare and local species in Maryland, this Two-spotted Skipper was photographed in Garrett Co.
[2022 June 23, photo by Josh Emm]

Food for Thought: It’s the season for annual counts. June 25 is the western Montgomery Co. count (compiler Stephanie Mason, stephanie.mason@anshome.org); so is the Audrey Carroll Count MD (compiler David Smith, lacsmith12@comcast.net); and so is the Island Ford count (east Rockingham Co. VA; compiler Mike Smith, mgsmith707@comcast.net). July 8 is the Shenandoah National Park Count (compiler Mike Smith, mgsmith707@comcast.net). July 9 is the Green Ridge State Forest Count (compiler yours truly, rborchelt@gmail.com).

The weekly Almanac captures sightings and butterfly news from the heart of the mid-Atlantic, roughly 3 hours in any direction from DC. Share your observations and questions about regional butterflies here as a comment or, if you’re in Maryland or DC, on MDLepsOdes, the Google Group for field observations of leps and odonates.

Posted in almanac, Forecasts, general butterfly news, sightings | 1 Comment

Butterfly Almanac and Forecast for Week of 2022 June 18

Barry Marts sent in this pic of a Harris’ Checkerspot congregation in Canaan Valley WV [2022 June 10]

Highlights: Banded Hairstreak, Pepper and Salt Skipper, Hayhurst’s Scallopwing, Broad-winged Skipper, Hoary Edge, Long Dash, Silver-bordered Fritillary, Striped Hairstreak, Black Dash, Aaron’s Skipper, Eufala Skipper, Bog Copper

So — did you miss us? The Almanac went on vacation as I did a salamander safari through the Shenandoahs, the Blue Ridge, the Smokies, and eastern TN the past 10 days — mostly without internet access to check on Almanac fodder. A terrific trip, but with not a lot to see in the way of butterflies — most of the salamander haunts I was poking around in are wooded coves and shaded streamsides, so there were few butterflies to be found.

But folks here in the Almanac region have been busy racking up new FOYs, so let me just hit the highlights from the past two weeks.

Spring has wound down everywhere but the far western counties, where Pepper and Salt Skipper was still being seen. Observers out west also picked up Long Dash, Baltimore Checkerspot, and Silver-bordered Fritillary. Black Dash graced the Virginia rolls.

Closer to home base, Hoary Edge and Hayhurst’s Scallopwing were good finds, as was the official kick-off of the Satyrium season, Banded Hairstreak. Striped Hairstreak is also on the wing. And even though iNat has a ton of recent reports of Spring Azure, they aren’t still around — except for the few Appalachian Azures still out (and there are some), any azure you see now is Summer Azure. South Jersey butterfliers were treated to an Oak Hairstreak in Ocean Co. Bog Coppers were also in full flight in NJ’s Burlington Co.

Various other brushfooted butterflies were FOYs recently, including Hackberry and Tawny Emperors. Numbers are building for Northern Pearly-eye and Appalachian Brown.

Broad-winged Skipper sightings signaled the beginning of the flush of coastal skippers for the area, followed closely by Aaron’s, Salt Marsh, and Delaware Skippers. A worn Eufala Skipper was reported near Baltimore.

A nice sighting of Checkered White from Arlington VA was probably the best pierid sighting, although Sleepy Oranges are beginning to show up more regularly. I had a flyby Cloudless Sulphur coming up on Front Royal on my return to the DC area earlier this week.

Prognostication: Coral Hairstreak should be flying this week; look for it on orange butterflyweed. It’s likely we’ve missed the Edwards’ Hairstreak flight, but observers might turn this species up still. King’s Hairstreak is due out about now, as is Common Wood Nymph. Atlanta and Aphrodite Fritillary should be joining Great Spangled Fritillaries currently flying.

Bonus pic:

Satyrium season starts with this Walt Gould pic of a Banded Hairstreak at Patuxent North Tract (Laurel, MD) [2022 June 16]

Food for Thought: Regal Frit tours are back! During the month of July, Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) wildlife staff will provide free guided tours of the only population of the rare regal fritillary butterfly in the eastern United States at Fort Indiantown Gap (FTIG), near Annville, Lebanon County. Reservations are required and attendance is limited. All attendees, including children, must register online to obtain a free permit. To attend a tour, you must present a permit for the specific date and time slot of that tour. Guided tours will be offered on July 1, 2, 8, and 9. Departure times will be 10 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and noon each day. Tours will be conducted rain or shine and no rain dates will be provided.

The weekly Almanac captures sightings and butterfly news from the heart of the mid-Atlantic, roughly 3 hours in any direction from DC. Share your observations and questions about regional butterflies here as a comment or, if you’re in Maryland or DC, on MDLepsOdes, the Google Group for field observations of leps and odonates.

Posted in almanac, Forecasts, general butterfly news, sightings | Leave a comment

Monarch Populations are Thriving in North America

That’s the headline out of a new study published this week in the journal Global Change Biology, upending decades of handwringing and dire predictions about the fate of US Monarch populations. Co-authored by Andy Davis of the University of Georgia, the analysis used nearly three decades of NABA annual count data to look more holistically at populations trends of the iconic milkweed butterfly rather than the standard winter roost count data. The new review suggests that the summer population of monarchs has remained relatively stable over the past 25 years.

You did, of course, get a sense of that here at LepLog over the years. A lot of money has been raised from milkweed sales, donations to “Save the Monarch” campaigns, and Monarch Waystation signs predicated on a gloom-and-doom scenario. And yet we in the East have seen robust populations every summer to go with our more-than-abundant native stands of common milkweed.

The UGA news release notes:

“There’s this perception out there that monarch populations are in dire trouble, but we found that’s not at all the case,” said Andy Davis, corresponding author of the study and an assistant research scientist in UGA’s Odum School of Ecology. “It goes against what everyone thinks, but we found that they’re doing quite well. In fact, monarchs are actually one of the most widespread butterflies in North America.”

One concern for conservationists has been the supposed national decline in milkweed, the sole food source for monarch caterpillars. But Davis believes this study suggests that breeding monarchs already have all the habitat they need in North America. If they didn’t, Davis said, the researchers would have seen that in this data.

“Everybody thinks monarch habitat is being lost left and right, and for some insect species this might be true but not for monarchs,” Davis said. If you think about it, monarch habitat is people habitat. Monarchs are really good at utilizing the landscapes we’ve created for ourselves. Backyard gardens, pastures, roadsides, ditches, old fields—all of that is monarch habitat.”

For us on the East Coast especially, enjoy the black and orange spectacle this summer and fall. It’s not going anywhere.

Posted in conservation, endangered species, Field Trips/Annual Counts, general butterfly news | Leave a comment