The authors include Gary Paul Nabhan, PhD, University of Arizona WS.K. Kellogg Program, Chip Taylor, PhD, University of Kansas/Monarch Watch and Ina Warren, co-facilitator of Make Way for Monarchs. Joan Carstensen Design of Flagstaff Arizona provided the memorable design, and Paul Mirocha of Tucson provided color illustrations.
The challenge before us is to successfully build collaborations for the largest habitat recovery initiative in American history. The team conducted interviews with numerous agencies, for-profit and non-profits regarding the hurdles we must overcome to achieve sufficient milkweed seed, plug and plant availability for monarch forage to rebound. The target set was for 4-6 hectares of overwintering grounds filled by high elevation oyamel fir forests of central Mexico.
Two striking maps are also included in the Report:
(1) Artist Paul Mirocha created a US map showing spring / summer monarch breeding areas overlaid by the growing use of glyphosate from year to year; it is the first map which graphically helps restorationists fathom the magnitude of restoration needed;
(2) A US map showing ecoregions that is linked to the best milkweed species to plant in each in order for assist highways of transportation seed buyers, conservation organizations and habitat restorationists in understanding the different seed transfer zones within their region.
Highlights of this report include:
• six major ways of protecting and better managing existing milkweed populations
• ten steps toward designing and managing the milkweed seed supply chain
• currently-available seed sources and their costs that can be employed to help specific Departments of Transportation access sufficient seed supplies for highway right of way restorations
• seven substantive groups that are potential sources of foundation seeds for DOTs
• seven regional areas in US and the milkweed species and targets for those areas
With so many people involved in Loudoun County’s Monarch efforts, it’s a delight to shine a spotlight on some of them, so we thought it would be purposeful to share a few exciting and diverse efforts coming out of Loudoun county.
Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy joined in the extraordinary citizen science and conservation effort for the Monarch butterfly in 2013 by launching the “Bringing Back the Monarch, Keeping the Magic Alive”program consisting of several important goals. A local information campaign is key to this effort, including public talks, workshops, and hands-on opportunities to learn about raising and releasing Monarchs and restoring and protecting the dwindling habitat along their migratory path between Mexico and Canada.
The campaign has been enthusiastically embraced county-wide and has inspired eagerness among all age groups, resulting in a deeply committed effort across so many levels of involvement. Dozens of Loudoun’s public and private schools have taught their students by planting and registering Monarch Waystations, and countless residents now know of and understand the importance of Milkweed, the Monarch’s only host plant.
In my own close-knit community, South Riding, it is not so rare to see a neighbor of mine now carefully turning over milkweed leaves in the yard. Such selfless volunteers are looking for Monarch eggs or caterpillars. They have joined in the effort because the Monarch is a creature we can save just by KNOWING more and adjusting our compass to align with their needs as they journey North and South, crisscrossing Loudoun County in that tell-tale glide as they seek out a nectar source or a tender milkweed plant just right for egg-laying. We are making a difference in that magical journey here in Loudoun County, one garden plot or Monarch talk at a time.
“Tres Amigos” 4th generation caterpillars in Loudoun, soon to be adult Monarchs headed to Mexico. Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman
From all corners of Loudoun, we are hearing reports of Monarch caterpillar and butterfly sightings (please report your sightings to Journey North), we receive inquiries about how to rear the caterpillars, and we answer requests for native plant and milkweed plant needs with plant sales to foster the development of habitats across our area. Waystations bursting with these native beauties and with the Monarch’s milkweed are now popping up on apartment balconies, in school courtyards, in park meadows, and in front yard planter beds. These Waystations are diligently registered with Monarch Watch, too. And why is that, really…why REGISTER your garden? Well, among the many incentivizing reasons, my favorite is that a SIGN goes up to communicate the good news of the important work that space is now up to. That sign is powerful because people walking past stop to read it, then they ask questions or visit the website whimsically scripted at the bottom (MonarchWatch.org). Really, a sign like that on a garden means something special is going on, and people want to know more. That’s the golden ticket! It’s the Salesman’s “grab” convincing you that there is something new to learn today. Remember those neighbors of mine I mentioned…those curious souls staring carefully into the milkweed? They saw our sign, and then they asked what it was all about. Sometimes, it’s just that easy. In other ways, the efforts are more gregarious and elbow-greased.
Ed Felker’s Waystation proves successful in its first season. Photo Credit: Ed Felker
To start with, our dedicated president, Nicole Hamilton, along with another very active Loudoun Monarch advocate, Caroline Kuhfahl, has been writing letters and hosting meetings with local wineries (like 868 Vineyard and Sunset Hills) to foster event planning initiatives that call attention to the wonderful butterfly habitat opportunities available on the grounds of these vineyards. There are several events in the works, and some already successfully held, so keep your eyes on the events calendar to catch the next “WINGS & WINE” event (to be posted).
Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy works with public libraries, parks, and community centers all over Loudoun County to host Monarch talks aimed at informing our local communities of the plight of the Monarch and to invite citizens to be awed by the Monarch’s unique story. In addition, a series of “Raising and Releasing Monarchs” workshops have been very popular and have equipped a growing crowd of citizen scientist volunteers with the knowledge, the tools, and the support to collect eggs and caterpillars from the wild that are then reared in captivity to be released as adult butterflies. This is a fascinating and joyful journey for all involved. One such Loudouner, Ed Felker, wrote about his first-time experience raising and releasing Monarchs this summer in a stunningly poetic photo-essay. If you have not read it yet, here is the link; trust me, you’ll feel as though you are watching it all unfold before your own eyes.
A stunning capture of this last life-cycle stage. Photo Credit: Ed Felker
Loudoun citizens are showing their commitment to habitat restoration, too. Aside from the countless private Waystations, Monarch Waystations are now registered at public spaces including Ashburn Farms, Brambleton, Loudoun Soccer Park (where Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch himself planted milkweed), and at over 30 Loudoun County Public Schools. This is an extraordinary response! In an effort to learn just how many Monarch releases are occurring in Loudoun County, Loudoun Wildlife has created an online form where citizens can report their release data. The total count and information will be displayed on Loudoun Wildlife’s website–that portion is still in development to be deployed in the coming days. Click HERE to enter YOUR releases!
The greatest hope of all of these sorts of activities is to spread a little wonder with the education we are sharing. Wonder leads to that special kind of curiosity that motivates one to seek information. More than a year ago, that marvelous wonder sparked something in a now 9-year old Loudoun student, Carter Steadman. Carter has been chasing down every bit of current Monarch information available, and he’s been chasing Monarchs through milkweed patches, collecting over 200 eggs and caterpillars this season alone. It’s a daily exercise in observation and careful caterpillar headcounts as he rears his Monarchs to adults that flit off with whimsy while he watches with that stunning wonder in his smile. He is determined to save this creature, and he takes every opportunity to tell anyone willing to listen, earning him the nickname, “The Monarch Kid.”
Child-like wonder is all over Carter Steadman’s face as he admires the Monarch caterpillar. Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman
Brotherly love. Photo Credit:Sarah Steadman
This summer, Carter’s level of passion, along with his natural at-ease disposition, have been at play for Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and the Monarch. He has presented with Nicole Hamilton to children and families at local libraries and community centers, and he has created and planted four registered Monarch Waystations, including a very large and already successful garden at his school, Hutchison Farm Elementary School in South Riding. Planting events at his school were held at the end of May to put the plants in place for summer, and Carter tended to the school’s garden twice a week all summer making sure it was weeded, watered, and ready for Monarchs should they arrive. Well, in his own words, “THEY CAME, I FOUND A MONARCH!” The first Monarch caterpillar was found in mid July, and since then Carter has found eggs, caterpillars, and butterflies in the garden. He proudly reared the first caterpillar at home and released it back into the school’s garden as a healthy adult male named “Husky” in honor of the school’s mascot. Carter’s enthusiasm for sharing the magic of the Monarch with the students led the school to rename the hallway leading to the garden “Monarch Hallway,” which Carter thought was pretty cool because it means “…everyone will say ‘MONARCH’ every day, and that means people will be wondering about Monarchs.” We think he’s on to something there.
The Monarch Waystation Carter planted at his school, Hutchison Farm Elementary School, is active with Monarchs just 2 months after planting. The students who helped plant this garden are learning hands-on that they are “never too young to make a difference.” Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman
Perhaps the most special part of Carter’s efforts is that he truly has a tireless passion for the recovery of the Monarch migration…he believes recovery will happen. This is not a “maybe” or “if” scenario for him, perhaps because he is only 9 and at this young age possibilities are limitless, or perhaps because part of the answer to the problem is so simple: tell people. Share what you know. When people know better, they often do better. And so, Carter tells people…and some people with rather large audiences have started listening. Louder voices, like local and national newspapers and TV news, are helping Carter share the magic of the Monarch. This summer, Carter was filmed for “The Meadow Project” http://themeadowproject.com, an independent educational “documentary focused on showing how and why native plants are critical to the survival and vitality of local ecosystems.” Nicole & Carter were also interviewed for a news spot related to the recent pollinator task force appointed by the White House. The piece aired in California where a portion of the annual migration takes place. Such opportunities to share Loudoun’s efforts far and wide have an important role toward inspiring others to become involved, and ultimately impact the Monarch’s chance to bounce back. See the news video HERE.
“On your way Little Lady…enjoy your journey,” says Carter, releasing a healthy female. Photo Credit: Sarah Steadman
Follow Carter on Facebook, join in any of Loudoun Wildlife’s free events, and participate from the comfort of your home by simply sharing this post with your own networks in a sort of information migration effort.
If you love Monarch butterflies then you must love milkweed. It is the onlyplant that the Monarchs lay their eggs on and the onlyplant that they eat as caterpillars.
The two favorites of the Monarch are (in this order) Common Milkweed and Swamp Milkweed — and we have both available for you to buy this weekend.
Saturday, August 9, 10:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monarchs are here and they’re laying eggs in gardens across Loudoun – even on plants that were just planted this past spring! If you need more milkweed plants (common milkweed or swamp milkweed) come to our plant sale and get what you need.
All plants are $3 each and are ready for planting and welcoming in the monarchs! We’ll have Monarch handouts and rearing cages available.
You’ll find us at Morven Park in the big parking lot on Southern Planter Lane. The address is 17263 Southern Planter Lane, Leesburg. Questions: Contact Nicole Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
These native milkweed plants are perennial – so plant them now and they’ll not only grow and thrive this year but also come back year after year to welcome the Monarchs to your garden.
All plants are $3 each.
In addition to planting milkweed at home, look around — do you see an open sunny grassy spot?
Those spots are wastelands — but you can convert them to a rich healthy habitat by planting a native garden that will come back year after year.
If you go to a church or live in a community with shared open space/landscaping, chat with people you know about creating a Monarch waystation together. It can save maintenance money and look beautiful.
Here are two quick tip sheets to help with planning:
Monarchs are flying through Loudoun! They are laying eggs and caterpillars are growing! If you plant milkweed and native nectar plants in your garden you may attract them. You can just enjoy them but it’s also really fun to raise and release them through the summer too! Check out this video on how you can raise Monarchs and experience the magic!
Note: The key to success is having enough milkweed for caterpillars to eat (they eat a lot) – 10 healthy plants is a great number
More information is on our website: http://www.loudounwildlife.org/Monarch_Campaign_Raise_Release_Monarchs.html
A big Thank You to Charlie Snyder and Susan Becilia for putting this video together!
Keeping the Magic Alive Monarch awareness events have begun with a seasonal series of informative and hopeful “The Magic of Monarchs” presentations led by Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy president, Nicole Hamilton.
Last year, after the shocking loss of Monarch population numbers announcement, Loudoun Wildlife launched its Bringing Back the Monarch campaign. Efforts to save the Monarch include many long-term projects like public and private habitat restoration (planting Monarch Waystations), native plant sales, milkweed monitoring, raising & releasing Monarchs, and an important education component.
Hamilton’s presentations educate both the informed and the newcomer regarding today’s latest on the plight of the Monarch. She weaves critical information into cultural connections and the human experience. Her slideshow, data, photography, and genuine ethusiasm engage her audiences, and she sends them away with what she hopes is a new purpose and an understanding of the significance just one person can have on the future of this important species.
Loudoun Wildlife is proud of the county’s fellow conservationists and residents; last year’s campaign resulted in the release of 2,502 Monarchs here in Loudoun County! Fourteen of those successful releases were accomplished by an inspiring–and YOUNG–local citizen-scientist, Carter Steadman.
Today, Carter, age 9, joined Nicole Hamilton at the first ”The Magic of Monarchs” event of the season. He began by reminding the audience that, “…you’re never too young to make a difference.”
Nicole Hamilton, at Lovettsville Library, kicks off the season’s Monarch education events today (April 5th), and she is joined by a young Loudoun County Monarch conservationist, Carter Steadman.
Carter is a 3rd grader in Loudoun County at Hutchison Farm Elementary School, and he is worried that the Monarch might be gone before he even graduates high school.
Last year, while learning the enchanting science of life cycles in second grade, his teacher taught the class about the loss of the Monarch. Carter has said that this teacher “changed his life.” Why? Because armed with the knowledge of a problem, Carter believes a SOLUTION is achievable. Saving the Monarch has become Carter’s passion, and he has found an ally in Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy.
After spending last summer learning about raising caterpillars to adulthood and rearing multiple species of butterfly and moth (from found caterpillars), Carter decided he could help even more if he planted a Waystation of his own. For his birthday last September, asking his friends to skip the typical material gift and offer donations toward garden costs instead, Carter was able to build and register an official Monarch Waystation in his yard! He named his garden Lepidoptera Lane because he hopes it will be a long-term habitat for butterflies, and a nectaring-point for migrating Monarchs.
Since then, Carter has realized how important it is to teach people about the Monarch–and that education is perhaps the most powerful solution.
“If I plant a garden, that’s something…but if others know how to do it, too–then all of a sudden there’s SO many more gardens and so much MORE habitat for the Monarch.”
So, Carter wants to get kids and their families involved, and he’s working hard to get the word out about the Monarch. Recently, and with the support of a teacher and the leadership at his school, Carter is planning to install a Monarch Waystation & Learning Garden so that his classmates–and the school’s future students–can learn about life cycles, habitats, and conservation…hands-on. WOW! He has already begun fundraising for the project which is slated to break ground in May, pending official approval.
But Carter’s not just interested in the grounds of his neighborhood…he wants to plant seeds in people, too–seeds of knowledge! He has been building a website geared at educating his fellow young citizen advocates, and he’s panning to meet you, along with Nicole Hamilton, at more of Loudoun Wildlife’s Monarch events. Like Carter said today:
“ The greatest thing you can do is tell someone, share about the Monarch with other people–that is how to fix the problem.”
Share his site, butterflybuddy.com, with the young people in your lives, and come on out to one of the upcoming Loudoun Wildlife ”The Magic of Monarchs” events (schedule below).
Did you see a Monarch Butterfly today? Well wish it well for the great migration to Mexico because that’s where it’s headed! Today marks the start of the peak migration for our latitude (39).
Monarch Watch put together this great table that shows how the migration plays out.
Peak in monarch abundance
24 August -5 September
29 August – 10 September
3 – 15 September
8 – 20 September
19 September – 1 October
24 September – 6 October
29 September – 11 October
20 October – 1 November
27 October -8 November
Monarchs are triggered to migrate by the shorter days and cooler temperatures and in fact, the butterflies that emerge in this late summer/early fall period do not develop sexually. Instead they go into a state of diapause (like a long term adolescence) and just focus on nectaring and flying south to Mexico.
Once they arrive in Mexico (around the last week of October) they’ll rest for the winter and then by next February, they’ll become sexually mature, mate and start the journey north, laying eggs in the spring.
If you see a Monarch over the next few weeks, take a minute to watch and enjoy, and when it takes off whisper a wish for safe travels!
This Saturday is our 17th Annual Loudoun County Butterfly count where we form into 8 teams, each led by an experienced butterflier (that’s a new area of expertise if you weren’t sure), as we identify and count as many butterflies as we can inside our count circle and along designated routes within it.
We currently have 90 people signed up for the count and a glorious Saturday with a forecasted temperature of 81 degrees. It couldn’t get any better as that temperature is just right for the butterflies to be flying and the counters to be counting.
But what will we find? We’re hearing about (and seeing in our gardens) incredible numbers of Eastern Tiger Swallowtails and Silvery Checkerspots so we’ll see if we break any records with their numbers, but what about Monarchs? We’ve been keeping tabs on the listservs all spring and summer as butterfly counts took place through the Midwest, the Adirondacks, and into Canada and reports throughout those areas were grim…..1 or 2 or 5 Monarchs (or no Monarchs at all) where in previous years there would be 70-100.
Since a monarch’s life span is only about two to four weeks – one migration can comprise several generations of the butterflies – an entire generation is missing in Ontario. “What that means is that each generation is not producing very many monarchs,” Ms. Howard says. “The significant thing beyond that is that fall migration starts in August. So, we’re looking at the breeding season ending before the numbers really build.” Ms. Howard says the monarchs need warmer temperatures to make up their numbers. “This year is an extreme. Nobody knows if they can recover from these levels. They may bounce back, but it doesn’t look very good.”
Here in Loudoun we have seen an uptick in at least being able to find eggs and first instar caterpillars and every few days or so I’ll get an email from someone saying “I saw a Monarch!” They’re out there but in slim numbers.
At Banshee Reeks, I saw at least 10 nectaring on Thistle and the milkweed there is robust to say the least. So if you want to see Monarchs, I recommend a stroll through the trails along the fields.
So what will our butterfly count show? Well, last year we counted 57 Monarchs. Our high in 2009 was 193. I’ll do a posting early next week with a quick summary of our count, including our Monarch numbers – maybe Virginia is their northern range this year?
You can help the Monarch by going out into your local milkweed patch, looking for caterpillars and bringing them in to raise. In the wild, only 1-2 out of 100 survive to adulthood but we can do better than that by raising them inside, protected from predators. If you want to participate in that and in helping reach our goal of raising & releasing 2,013 Monarch in Loudoun between now and early October, Contact Usand we’ll help you get started. All you need is a good milkweed patch where you can look for caterpillars (and eggs) and a rearing house.
You can also help by planting a Monarch waystation – a stopover place where there are native nectar plants (please plant Goldenrods, Asters, Joe Pye Weed, New York Ironweed) that help them build up fat reserves in order to make it to Mexico; and milkweed – the only plant they lay their eggs on and that they eat as caterpillars. Abernethy & Spencer and WildWood Landscape both are selling the plants you need. Give them a quick google to get their location and hours. Plant your waystation and register it with Monarch Watch - ever bit helps.
Yesterday I went up the street to the little milkweed patch near my house. I had been checking my garden milkweed and some other spots and had been coming up empty but not to be deterred, I went over to this little patch up the street. As I walked in to it, I noticed some fresh milkweed plants just pushing up from the other roadside weeds and the leaves were fresh and tender.
There were no signs of caterpillars – no frass, no chew marks, but I flipped a leaf….and there it was – small as a pin head yet huge in the life that it portends. From there I flipped more leaves and found a total of 3 eggs!
I entered these into Journey North site as my first egg sighting – so far those are the only ones entered for Loudoun but I know more are out there – so keep (or start) checking your milkweed. If you find any eggs or caterpillars let me know. I can talk you through how to raise them if you want or I can connect you with someone who is looking for a chance to do so.
If you do find eggs and caterpillars, please do enter your first of season sightings into the Journey North site. It’s important citizen science data.