Butterfly expert wants to help Parkites use milkweed to save the migrating monarchs
What: ‘Saving the Monarchy: One Milkweed at at Time’
When: 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 9
Cost: Free for Swaner EcoCenter members; $7 for nonmembers
Each spring, thousands of monarch butterflies fly north through Utah from California, Mexico and the southern United States looking for milkweed to lay their eggs.
Milkweed is vital to the survival of these butterflies, which are important pollinators, because it is the only plant used by monarch caterpillars, said Hunter Klingensmith, Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter visitor experience coordinator.
Park City can dive deeper into the relationship between monarchs and milkweeds during “Saving the Monarchy: One Milkweed at a Time,” a virtual presentation that runs from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 9. The presentation, hosted by the Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter, will be given by Rachel Taylor, research associate for Southwest Monarch Study, a citizen-science group that studies the butterflies.
Registration, which can be completed by visiting swanerecocenter.org, is free for EcoCenter members and $7 for nonmembers.
Information regarding the webinar’s access will be provided after registration. The presentation will also be recorded and shared with registrants at a later date.
Taylor will discuss ways people can grow Utah native milkweed in their own yards to attract monarchs, and feed their larvae, according to Klingensmith.
“Usually when she makes this presentation in person, she brings in milkweed so people can take them home to plant,” Klingensmith said. “This time, I’m not sure if we’re going to have any available for pick-up at the EcoCetner. But if we can, we will let registrants know.”
In addition to information about how to grow milkweed, registrants will learn of opportunities regarding community science and monarch conservation efforts, she said.
Those efforts include tagging and tracking monarchs from Utah on their journey south to Mexico or California during the fall, Taylor said in an email.
“Each August and September, we catch monarchs in the wild with nets, and tag them for a migration study,” she said. “The tags are these tiny little mylar stickers placed in the perfect spot on their dorsal wing so it doesn’t affect flight.”
Each tag includes the website for Southwest Monarch Study, and a number in a sequence assigned to each tagger, which helps identify individual butterflies in the wild, according to Taylor.
“On August 31, 2019, I took a couple of people from U.S. Fish & Wildlife with me to an area in America Fork where we tagged a dozen or so monarchs that were nectaring in a wetland area,” she said. “On Jan 3, one of those monarchs was spotted in an overwintering site in Pismo Beach, California, and had flown 603 miles to where this healthy male was spotted by someone visiting that site.”
One lesser known fact about monarch migration is that the process spans lifetimes, according to Taylor.
“There are four generations of monarchs per year, (and) the last of each season is born in August and September,” she said. “They are the migratory and live eight to nine months traveling south to Mexico or California. The next three generations only live three to five weeks and move north chasing cooler weather and more milkweed.”
Taylor hopes the grandchildren of the butterfly that was spotted in Pismo Beach are back in Utah.
“We also hope our now small population will continue to grow until day-length and temperatures trigger their desire to migrate to Mexico or the California coast for the winter,” she said.
The July 9 webinar marks a four-year collaboration between the EcoCenter and Taylor, according to Klingensmith.
“Rachel is a fun and exciting and enthusiastic presenter, and because it’s a virtual event, people will still have the opportunity to interact with her and ask questions,” she said.
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