The Monarch Alliance News

February 2018 Newsletter

THE MIGRATION:  All monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains are now safely resting in tight clusters in the winter sanctuaries of the Mexican trans-volcanic mountain range in central Mexico.  We await the results of the census, which I assume has been completed or shortly will be and Monarch Watch’s analysis of what the tagging showed.


By the end of the month, the monarchs will start to become active, mate, and begin to head north.  Let’s hope it will not be too early, since phenology counts:  last year the monarchs arriving in Texas and Oklahoma experienced strong winds, which blew them north into the breeding area too soon, in some cases, before the milkweed was even up.  The best scenario is for the migration to reach Texas and Oklahoma in March – April, to deposit eggs in those states, followed by the expansion of the “first generation” born there into the breeding areas in May and June.  Timing and weather are all important.


Last year, weather also played an important role in the southern migration, with high summer temperatures in the north delaying the migration south.  The migration is never early, but can be late.  While we had good breeding here in the summer, the fall migration was delayed and spread out.  Many of the monarchs in our area probably did not make it to Mexico.


So, let’s hope for good weather this year – it is one of the most important variables for the population.


WV MONARCH CONFERENCE:  The Monarch Alliance has a footprint in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia and I have been helping WV DNR’s efforts to hold a Monarch Butterfly Conference to plan the state’s response to the Endangered Species Act Assessment.  That assessment is going on in the Interior Department.  I think we are the only active monarch conservation organization in the state and I’ll be telling them about our programs, including our waystation and tagging programs.


TMA GRANT PROGRAM:   As you know, we started a grant program late last year to provide up to $3000 in grants of native plants to educational organizations (defined broadly) that will install Monarch Waystations and use those facilities to educate children or the public about the monarch butterfly and its declining population.  We have a six-member committee, headed by Tracy McCleaf, to review the grant applications.  I’m not sure of all the applications but I think we have about six.  I expect this program to grow as the word gets out.


In addition, TMA received a grant of $1200 from the Community Foundation of Washington County to plant four storm water drainage ponds at Bester Elementary School with monarch habitat.  We also promised Fort Frederick State Park another 500 native plants for the meadow area on the opposite side of the parking area we planted last year, and we are working with the Washington County Parks Department to plant a waystation with about 300 native plants at their Pleasant Valley Park on Rt.67.


We also promised a monarch rearing cage to the nature center at Fort Frederick State Park and one for the library at Hancock.  Hancock is building a new library and the librarian is going to apply for a waystation grant in the fall.


So, we are going to be very busy.  Many thanks to Ann Aldrich, our botanist for all of her work in planning these gardens.


SPRING MILKWEED AND NATIVE PLANT SALE:  The sale is set at Sunny Meadows Garden Center in Sharpsburg for May 19.  I think we’ll start an hour earlier this year, 9 a.m. and end at 2 p.m.  Sunny Meadows has ordered about 1000 milkweeds, including Butterfly Weed, Swamp Milkweed, Whorled Milkweed and Common Milkweed, so this is your big chance to stock up.  In addition, Ann Aldrich has picked out some great native plants for the sale.  Many of these plants will go to our grant applicants and special projects but there should be plenty of native plants for everyone.


OTHER ACTIVITIES:  We have plenty of other activities planned for the spring, including:


  • A number of already scheduled monarch educational programs with bird clubs and conservation organizations and master gardeners and garden clubs.

  • Greenfest festival at Boonsboro.

  • Annual membership meeting at NCTC in April.

  • And other activities we are looking at: … the Lahr Symposium and Native Plant Sale at the National Arboretum, the HCC Flower and Plant Sale at Hagerstown Community College, and some Earth Day festivals.


Best Regards,


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