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Minnesota monarch monitoring and more!
Midwest Region, September 8, 2018
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One branch of roosting monarchs at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in August of 2018.
One branch of roosting monarchs at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in August of 2018. - Photo Credit: Kelly Nail (USFWS)
Graph showing monarch density on the milkweed around newly restored areas of the Minnesota Wisconsin Field Office.
Graph showing monarch density on the milkweed around newly restored areas of the Minnesota Wisconsin Field Office. - Photo Credit: MLMP.org
Andrew Horton and Pete Fasbender (USFWS MN-WI Field Office) net nectaring monarch butterflies to be tagged and released before they begin their migration to Mexico.
Andrew Horton and Pete Fasbender (USFWS MN-WI Field Office) net nectaring monarch butterflies to be tagged and released before they begin their migration to Mexico. - Photo Credit: Kelly Nail (USFWS)
Dave Warburton (USFWS MN-WI Field Office) prepares to release a tagged monarch. The monarch will travel over 1,700 miles to overwintering sites in Mexico, where it will hopefully be re-sighted!
Dave Warburton (USFWS MN-WI Field Office) prepares to release a tagged monarch. The monarch will travel over 1,700 miles to overwintering sites in Mexico, where it will hopefully be re-sighted! - Photo Credit: Kelly Nail (USFWS)
Monarch butterflies roosting in trees at the MN Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
Monarch butterflies roosting in trees at the MN Valley National Wildlife Refuge. - Photo Credit: Kelly Nail (USFWS)
Monarch caterpillars found while monitoring swamp milkweed outside of the MN-WI Field Office.
Monarch caterpillars found while monitoring swamp milkweed outside of the MN-WI Field Office. - Photo Credit: Kelly Nail (USFWS)

The Minnesota-Wisconsin Field Office, located on the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, had a summer of incredible monarch encounters. The summer started out with restoring areas around the field office using native pollinator nectar and host plants, including species of milkweed for monarchs. Milkweed is the only plant that monarch caterpillars can eat, so milkweed is needed for there to be monarchs. The whole office, which is located on Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, joined a group of youth volunteers to get involved with planting and removing invasive species. The payoff was almost immediate, as monarch butterflies began laying their eggs on the milkweed within a week. Staff at the field office monitored and recorded monarch eggs and caterpillars throughout the season for the citizen science project, the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project. It was exciting to see how quickly new habitat can be used by a species!

Monarchs, from eggs to butterflies, were present throughout the rest of the summer, with an average of almost one monarch per milkweed plant. While this alone would have been exciting, there was a special treat at the end of August: monarchs formed roosting colonies on the refuge grounds for more than a week, as they prepared for their migration south to Mexico. Hundreds of monarchs formed clusters on trees during the cooler hours of the day, and nectared on nearby flowers when temperatures warmed up. Field office employees took the opportunity to net, tag and release these butterflies using tags from another citizen science project, Monarch Watch. With monarchs now arriving in Mexico for the winter, we will soon find out if any of our tagged monarchs were re-sighted at an overwintering colony.

The summer of monarchs ended with staff hosting a booth at the Minneapolis Monarch Festival. Festival goers were able to find out about not just monarchs, but other imperiled pollinators, such as the endangered rusty patched bumble bee. The booth also had supplies for participants to decorate a packet of native pollinator plant seeds, live monarchs, facepainting, and pollinator trivia!

Monarchs are in trouble, declining more than 80 percent over the past 20 years. There are many ways you can help monarchs and other imperiled pollinators, including planting native habitat and contributing to citizen science projects. For more information on the monarch, and detailed information on what you can do to help, please visit https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/


Contact Info: Kelly Nail, 952-252-0092 x205, kelly_nail@fws.gov
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