May 2021 Chapter Program Highlights

| Meeting Highlights

Presentation by Erin Linder on the Monarch Watch program.

Some interesting facts about monarchs:

  • They are the only butterfly to make a two-way migration journey that can be as long as 3000 miles, from Canada to central Mexico
    • Milkweed is their only host plant (to rear young). The milkweed’s color and toxins are stored in the monarch’s body to provide natural defense mechanisms against predators.
    • Any variety of milkweed provides food for monarch caterpillars.
    • Four varieties of milkweed are common in southeastern PA – Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed), A. syriaca (common milkweed), A. exaltata (poke milkweed), and A. tuberosa (butterfly milkweed).

Monarch Watch is a nonprofit founded in 1992 and based at the University of Kansas. Its purpose is to understand more about monarchs’ migration, assist in habitat conservation, provide education to K through 12 age groups, and operate an annual tagging program.

The monarch tagging program identifies where the butterfly was tagged, when it was tagged, and whether it was wild caught or captive reared. The database is public and is available on the Monarch Watch website, Close to 2 million monarchs have been tagged since the program began.

In February, adult monarchs begin their northward migration from their wintering grounds in the mountains of central Mexico. As they fly north, they mate and lay eggs. Each generation matures in about 30 days. The butterflies continue the northward migration, following the sources of nectar and the maturing milkweed plants. By June, the 4th generation of current year monarchs reaches southeastern Pennsylvania. At each stage of their migration, the weather and the availability of nectar sources and host plants for the caterpillars affect the survival of the next generation.

Southward migration to the overwintering sites begins in September. This is when monarchs can be tagged. The Monarch Watch website sells tagging kits and provides information on tagging wild-caught butterflies and rearing wild-caught caterpillars in captivity.

  • Call to Action.  Board member Michele Hensey described her efforts to have Pennsylvania ban the sale of certain nonnative invasive ornamental plants that are causing damage to native habitats across the state. Although Pennsylvania, like many other states, has a law regulating noxious weeds, the committee with the power to regulate these plants has been reluctant to include invasive ornamental species, such as Japanese barberry, callery pear, and winged euonymous, on a list of noxious weeds. However, recent public pressure from the members of several conservation-related nonprofit organizations may be motivating the committee to consider taking action. Wild Ones SEPA will keep members informed of the progress and of opportunities to submit comments to public officials in support of a ban on such sales.
  • Opportunities
  • Perkiomen Watershed Conservancy Virtual Native Plant Sale, through May 23 —
    • Valley Forge Audubon is sponsoring native pop-up gardens in Newtown Square, May 8 – June 15,
    • Ohio State University is hosting Bee Short Courses for Community Scientists, monthly webinars from May through November,
    • Wild Ones SEPA chapter outing, tour of Miller Farm, a sustainable working farm in Downingtown, May 12, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., free to members, rsvp to [email protected] to register
    • Wild Ones SEPA chapter outing, Pine Barrens guided tour, June 27, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., free to members, rsvp to [email protected] to register
    • Wild Ones chapter meeting schedule: June 9, July 8, Aug 4, Set 9, Oct 6, Nov 11, Dec 8

View the recording of the meeting on our Youtube channel here:

Visit our Facebook page for updates on planting natives in southeastern PA: