September 20, 2008 was an average tagging day of Monarchs at the Wurtsboro Airport. Over the years this field has produced the most butterflies for our tagging project, and together with lots of help I tagged 53 Monarchs. That day produced a very special butterfly for our program, #344. He was a “little beauty” as Steve Irwin would say. He was just minding his own business, heading south, when WHAM he found himself in my net. After recording the required information a tiny tag was placed on his hind wing and he was set free.
His journey south brought him all the way to Cerro Pelon Mexico. Although it ranks as the third most important over wintering location, it harbors 1 – 3 colonies of Monarchs each year. It is a small mountainous region just north of Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast. Illegal logging has just about wiped-out all large trees that the monarchs use, but a few do remain. These trees offer poor cover on steep exposed slopes and on cold nights in January many of the butterflies die. After flying over 2300 miles, #344 froze to death in January or early February. His body was recovered by licensed collector Elidio Moreno on February 28 of this year.
I named him Bittersweet because of the two different feelings I have for him. I’m sad that he died, it’s just not fair that he put all his effort into flying to an area that we humans wreaked havoc on. Because of our greed, a small mountain slope of trees that are so important to nature, was decimated and contributed to the death of #344. I’m very bitter! On the other hand, I’m happy to know that our effort has added information into tracking and overall knowledge of the Monarch butterfly, that’s sweet. Over the last two years SCAS has tagged 375 monarchs on their journey south. This year has not been a good year for Monarchs due to all the summer rain. If you would like to join us please call me at 482-5044 (before 8 pm) and I will let you know when and where we will be tagging.
— Renee Davis
More Monarchs Recovered in Mexico
Stu Alexander reported that he is very excited that 3 of his 103 Monarchs tagged last year have been reported as recovered in Mexico. LBY050, LBY081, and LBY097 made the trip and were found and counted.
July and August Monarchs
Summer rains left much to be desired this year as far as butterflying was concerned. Most of the Monarch caterpillars drowned and thus few adults are being seen this fall. As we go to print I usually have tagged well over a hundred by now but this year I have only tagged two. Monarchs did not do well in the east this year. In July, between raindrops, several people did get out and saw some butterflies, in fact they saw 1382 individuals consisting of 30 different species. That beat out June for the highest number of individuals. August dropped off like a lead balloon with only 343 individuals being seen consisting of only 21 species. To date 46 species have been seen in Sullivan County this year which is not a bad total after all. I guess we have to accept the fact that there are good years and bad years for everything, I’m looking forward for a really good year next year!
— Renee Davis