Fall events

August 13, 2019
I ran a search on Google, "2019 monarch butterfly events, Iowa". HOLY COW there are a lot of them!
  CLICK HERE for the results and find an event near you! Be sure to verify that the event actually IS in 2019!


Best practices for tagging migrating monarchs

We have entered the time of the year that we are now raising the super generation of monarchs, those that will fly to overwinter in Mexico.

All members should thoroughly read this blog post from Monarch Watch. "Tagging wild and reared monarchs: Best practices"

It contains information on the BEST practices for rearing successful migrators, and suggests you PLAN YOUR REARING so that the newly–emerged monarchs can be tagged early in the migratory season (10 days before to 10 days after the expected date of arrival of the leading edge of the migration in your area,  

The leading edge in Iowa is around September 8th, so that would mean tagging August 30 through September 18th.

Also MEI recommends that you plan to STOP collecting eggs/ and rearing by August 30th, preferably by mid-August. What is the use of raising monarchs that may not make it to Mexico? Or making them fly in temperatures that are just too cold?

I have attempted to break down the Monarch Watch post to make it a bit more understandable ..... good tips i
f you want your monarchs to make it to Mexico, tagged or not tagged!

"The migration is a strong selective force. It eliminates the weak, those with diseases, the undersized and those with genetic and other deficiencies

It also eliminates those that have not received the environmental cues that properly trigger diapause and the orientation and directional flight characteristics of the migration."

1. Rear larvae under the most natural conditions possible.
"In other words, rearing outdoors, on porches, in pole barns, open garages, etc., would likely produce better results than rearing in an air–conditioned kitchen, spare bedroom or similar space."

2. Provide an abundance of living or fresh–picked and sanitized foliage to larvae.  ..."raising the monarchs on living plants–potted or in the ground–is likely to produce the largest monarchs, provided that the monarch larvae have an abundance of foliage to feed on at all times. Cut foliage in the form of leaves also works well, but the leaves have to be fresh and abundant relative to the numbers of larvae in each container."

3. Provide clean rearing conditions.
"Containers should be cleaned each day once the larvae reach the 4th instar.

"To avoid passing the monarch disease Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (O.e. or OE) from outdoor monarchs to reared monarchs, both the living and cut foliage can be sanitized using a 10% bleach solution with a drop or two of liquid soap added. After soaking in the bleach solution for two minutes, the leaves should be rinsed thoroughly with clean water and patted dry before being fed to larvae."

"Living plants can be sprayed with the bleach solution and then rinsed. If you are using cut stems with leaves intact, they can be cleaned the same way. In that case, be sure to cut the stems under warm water before placing them in vases, etc. The warm water keeps the latex vesicles from closing down the transport of water to the leaves. Cut stems work to feed larvae, but they can go limp and be less suitable as a food source than cut leaves."

4. Plan the rearing so that the newly–emerged monarchs can be tagged early in the migratory season (10 days before to 10 days after the expected date of arrival of the leading edge of the migration in your area*).
MEI NOTE: The leading edge in Iowa is around September 8th, so that would mean tagging August 30 through September 18th.
5. Tag the butterflies once the wings have hardened and release them the day after emergence if possible.

6. When it comes to tagging, tag only the largest** and most–fit monarchs. "Records of tags applied to monarchs that have little chance of reaching Mexico add to the mass of tagging data, but do not help us learn which monarchs reach Mexico – unless the measurements, weight and condition of every monarch tagged and released is recorded. There are a few taggers who keep such detailed records and those data can be very informative. If you collect such data and are willing to share it please contact Monarch Watch; do not add this information to the standard tagging datasheet."

**The easiest way to judge the size of your monarchs is to measure the forewing from the base to the apex of the wing (Figure 1). These measures range from 46–52 mm with most migratory monarchs measuring 49–51 mm. After some experience with both wild and reared monarchs, it is relatively easy to judge those that are below 49 mm.


An expert's opinion on rearing monarchs

This is a letter submitted to the Dplex-L email list by the Director of the Monarch Lab at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Karen Oberhauser.

The Dplex-L List is Monarch Watch's monarch butterfly discussion list.

Monarch Watch Conservation Specialist, Debbie Jackson asked that we post this to hopefully allay fears of those that are rearing/raising eggs or caterpillars from the wild.

This is in response to the recent study outlined in an article from The Atlantic, " Monarch Butterflies Reared in Captivity Lack a Crucial Ability"

From: Karen Oberhauser
Date: Wed, Jun 26, 2019 at 3:44 PM
Subject: [Dplex-L] Commercial and Indoor rearing

Dear All,

I'm going to add my thoughts to a long line of communication on the recent paper in PNAS about commercial and indoor monarch rearing and the resulting coverage. I was interviewed for several of the media reports on this article, and have thus received many messages about my message, at least as it was conveyed by reporters.

The most important finding of the paper in question is that monarchs reared in captivity for generation after generation become genetically distinct from wild populations, and at least in the commercial butterflies purchased for this study, did not exhibit migratory behavior. That is a problem, and a robust result of the paper. The fact that only one commercial stock was used means that the study needs follow-up, but it does show that long-term mass rearing can result in genetic change that has the potential to cause problems for individual monarchs that are then released into the wild, and potentially for wild monarch populations if there is interbreeding.

Large-scale mass rearing for multiple generations is very different from rearing monarchs in captivity that are collected as eggs or larvae, and then released when they emerge as adults. It is important to note that the inside rearing in the experiment was done in incubators in which temperature and light were carefully controlled; think of a big warm refrigerator with controlled lights. As a result, the monarchs were not exposed to any natural light or temperature fluctuations; the lights went on for 14 hours, and were then off for 10 hours. While the authors said that these are fall-like conditions, they aren't. In the fall, daylength outside is changing rapidly. Work done in my lab at the University of Minnesota showed that decreasing daylength was a key driver of diapause induction. In most inside rearing conditions, such as in people's houses and classrooms, there are windows and diurnal temperature fluctuations which provide exposure to natural environmental cues. I’m actually not surprised that the monarchs didn’t migrate after being in an incubator under constant daylength conditions.

The genetic aspects of the study were interesting and important, but the conclusion about risks of single-generation raising of wild-collected eggs and larvae has much less validity. In my opinion, what people are doing when they rear monarchs in this way has incredible educational, inspirational, and scientific importance. As Ilse Gebhart pointed out, we would not know what we know about monarch parasitoids without the citizen scientists who rear monarchs they collect as eggs and larvae. I would encourage everyone who does rear monarchs to report their findings to the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (mlmp.org; look for Activity 3 in the monitoring section).

The key message from this study is that there is strong evidence that purchasing monarchs from commercial suppliers will not help monarchs, and it could cause harm to release those monarchs into the wild. In my opinion, the risks of commercial production outweigh the benefits. I have said that often, and this study provides documentation of one of the potential risks, genetic change that makes the monarchs less successful in the wild.

Thanks to everyone on this list for your clear dedication to monarch conservation, which I share.