The Monarch Alliance News

June 2017 Newsletter

Monarch Migration News: Here's the recap: the monarchs left Mexico the end of February through late March and flew north to Texas to find milkweed on which to deposit their eggs. Their over-wintering in Mexico, with just above freezing temperatures, reversed their flight direction so they flew north when they left. For information on how they navigate and their "sun compass", visit here.

After arriving in Texas and depositing their eggs on milkweed, strong northerly winds blew them north, some arriving there before the milkweed was up or was just popping out of the ground. There were multiple reports of monarchs "dumping" their eggs on minor shoots of milkweed, not an auspicious beginning for the breeding season. These monarchs that arrived too early, will not add to the overwintering population in Mexico.

We had monarchs in our area after mid-April, about a month earlier than usual. Several were reported at NCTC, the Antietam Battlefield, and other public areas. I saw 2 monarch cats on my common milkweed several days ago, although I never had an adult sighting on the property (clue - check your milkweed regularly for chew holes and frass).

With their arrival in the northern breeding areas, the monarchs are a month early and almost at the northern limit of milkweed. This may be a good sign, affording them an extra generation, however, Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch has cautioned against too much optimism. Monarchs are now depositing eggs for the "second" generation of monarchs, the grandchildren of the remigrants from Mexico.

Leadership News: Tracy McCleaf has agreed to become a Co-Director of The Monarch Alliance with me. Dave Kaplan has decided to step down after serving as Vice-President of the organization for 2 years. Dave was a great help and will continue to serve on the Coordinating Committee.

Tracy is a biologist at NCTC and is their focal point on training on monarchs and pollinators. If you have watched Monarch Joint Venture/NCTC webinars, you have seen or heard Tracy. She is extremely knowledgeable and has been working with me at our festivals and plant sales.

The Monarch Waystation Program: Earlier this week, The Monarch Alliance, with help from the Washington County Master Gardeners and the Washington County Beekeepers Association, put in 329 milkweed and native plants at Camp Harding, in Big Pool, Maryland. Camp Harding is one of Washington County's parks and is a real gem. The Monarch Alliance helped arrange for the plants from Sunny Meadows Garden Center in Sharpsburg, MD. You can see a picture of the planting on the TMA Facebook page. (TMA updates articles on our FB page almost daily)

Fort Frederick State Park: Ann Aldrich and I have had great discussions with Bob Study, the Assistant Park Manager at Fort Frederick State Park. Even though Fort Frederick is a major historical attraction, Bob (and the state) wants to emphasize nature and have nature programs. We have agreed with Bob on converting two major meadows near the visitor center to a warm season grassland environment with native grasses and plants. In the near future, we will start a fundraising initiative to buy the plants. The plant budget will be $1-2,000. So stay tuned.

Plant Sale at Kiwanis Park: On May 20, TMA held its annual milkweed sale/fundraiser and monarch educational program at Kiwanis Park. Marie Byers, Dave Kaplan and Paul Needy arranged the children's activities, including face painting; Tracy McCleaf held forth with monarch migration information and James Dillon and Fay Wastler helped with monarch native plants and waystation information.

Native Plant Sale at Sunny Meadows Garden Center: Sunny Meadows Garden Center and proprietor Ethan Weber are great friends of the monarch and The Monarch Alliance, and once again hosted our plant sale/fundraiser. This was a great success. Thanks to Tracy McCleaf, Fay Waster, Bruni Haydl and a few TMA members that hung around to help. We will do this again in the fall.

Our native plant sale should grow to become the major regional sales point for native plants. Ann Aldrich, Ethan Weber and I have discussed having most or all plants pure "natives" to our region. We now sell natives and native cultivars and a few favorite hybirds like Blue Fortune Agastache.


Other May Activities:


  • TMA had a table at the first Frederick County Environmental Expo at Tuscarora High School on May 6

  • We held a Junior Monarch Alliance program at North Jefferson Elementary School on May 11 (TMA gave each student in the program a Butterfly Weed plant);

  • We had a booth at Greenfest in Boonsboro on May 13;

  • I met with Alison Zak, an intern with the Potomac Valley Audubon Society, on May 17 in Ranson, WV about a possible Monarch Waystation in Ranson, WV;

  • Met with Bob La Roche, Technical Team Leader for Resources, Environmental Design Division, Maryland State Highways on May 24 to discuss his pollinator research projects. The Maryland State Legislature recently passed a pollinator protection act that will lead to the designation of critical pollinator habitat.


Best Regards,

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