Charlie and I decided the last Monarch Butterfly of 2015 (Happy 2016) deserved better odds for surviving the journey to the Mexican highlands than she would have if we released her in Garland in January. Thus we decided to take her about half-way to Raymondville, Texas where the weather would be a bit more friendly in January.
Happy 2016 still had 684.7 miles to go on January 7, 2016 when we released her. Will she make it and join millions of other Monarchs in the oyamel fir tree forests situated in the eastern perimeter of the Mexican state of Michoacan? We don’t know, but considering her luck thus far, I’m betting that she will. To date, she has survived against all odds. Her flight to Mexico will be made in the daytime, as Monarch butterflies are diurnal—not nocturnal. They remain still at night on bushes and trees. We don’t know for sure how far a Monarch can fly in one day. However, one tagged monarch was recaptured 265 miles away from where it had been released the previous day. (This was the record flight from the Urquhart tagging program. The butterfly was tagged in Waterford, Pennsylvania and recaptured at a site in Virginia.) I predict that Happy 2016 will be with her other Monarch friends no later than Monday January 11, 2016.
You can read the complete story of this remarkable Monarch on the home page of Loving Garland Green . org.
Why all this fuss over one Butterfly? The Monarch is a flagship species for conservation.
Happy 2016 and other Monarch butterflies are lovely symbols to represent all pollinators and call attention to their importance to human beings. Pollinators are responsible for at least 1/3 of all the food we consume and one half of the fats and oils we eat. In addition to that, we use their fibers for our clothing.
Populations of the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) have dropped an astonishing 96.5 percent over the past few decades, from an estimated 1 billion in the mid-1990s to just 35 million in early 2014. Conservation groups have been worrying about this decline for several years It is no surprise that communities are waking up to the importance of pollinators and are taking serious steps to protect them and increase the existence of their habitats.
The I-35 corridor from Texas to Minnesota is known as the pollinator highway. A program is now in place and supported by several federal agencies as well as local and state communities along the way to plant 100 miles to either side of this roadway with pollinator-friendly plants including the milkweed in particular. Rescuing Monarchs is a deviation from a natural process.
However, what hundreds of people like Charlie and I doing is a temporary intervention to correct and restore a natural process that has already been seriously tampered with and altered--primarily through the overuse of herbicides that have practically eliminated milkweed all along the migration corridors of the Monarch. The milkweed is the only plant that Monarchs and 300 other species of butterflies (called "the milkweed butterflies") will deposit their eggs on.
Due to the indiscriminate use of both pesticides and herbicides, the Monarch population as well as the population of many of our other pollinators is dangerously threatened. It is estimated that less than 5% of Monarchs 14 are able to complete their lifecycle. Most die as eggs or caterpillars. Monarchs that are rescued have a 95% probability of survival to adulthood.
What can you do?
- Pass along the complete story of Happy 2016. http://lovinggarlandgreen.org/files/1914/5261/2276/The_Remarkable_Story_.pdf
- Plant a few milkweed plants in your yard this spring.
- Encourage your mayor to take the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayors’ Monarch Pledge.
Through the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayors' Monarch Pledge, cities and municipalities are committing to create habitat and educate citizens about how they can make a difference at home.