Don Davis was the speaker at Northumberland Master Gardeners’ May meeting. Don spoke about “Travels with the Monarchs”. He began with the story of Dr Fred Urquhart and his wife Norah who starting in 1937 were instrumental in tracking the Monarch migration by tagging the wings of thousands of butterflies.
In 1975, with the help of two naturalists, Ken Brugger and Catalina Trail, they located the first known wintering refuge of the monarchs on a mountaintop in Mexico. A dozen such sites are known today and are protected preserves by the Mexican government. The area is now a World Heritage Site known as the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.
The Urquharts also discovered that the butterflies only travel in daylight and they average 40 kms per day for a total of up to 4000 kms to a place they have never been. The trip north spans two generations of monarchs while the longer lived northern butterfly reaches Mexico in a season, overwinters, breeds in the spring to start the next generation flying north.
The Monarch faces many perils on its journey, including bad weather, getting hit by cars, and being sprayed by insecticides. In addition, a harsh winter down south can be deadly. Once they reach Mexico or California (the western monarchs migrate there) the monarchs form large clusters that can number more than 50 million butterflies, truly a sight to see.
What can you do to help?
Create a butterfly garden!
1. Plant native flowering plants including milkweed
2. Include host plants. Visit gardenswithwings.com and type in your postal code. You’ll get an illustrated list of butterflies in your area and plants you”ll need to attract them.
3. Provide nectar all season long, in other words, choose plants that bloom early, mid and late summer, and autumn.
4. Provide a place to rest. Flat stones in the sun are perfect.
5. Avoid insecticides as they kill caterpillars and butterflies
6. Include water, wet sand or mud in a shallow pan or a birdbath will work.
There are several resources that you might like to follow up on:
monarchwatch.org gives you everything you’ll ever want to know about monarchs including raising, tagging, migration and more
monarchteachernetwork.org offers a full range of curricula and activities.
A book you might like to read
Milkweed, Monarchs and More by Ba Rae and others gives you information about all members of the milkweed community.
Join the Facebook Group The Beautiful Monarch This is a good place to ask questions, get information and share your monarch experiences.
On August 31 and September 1, 2019, starting at 8:00 am, The 34th Annual Monarchs and Migrants Weekend, sponsored by The Friends of Presqu’ile will be held at Presqu’ile Provincial Park in Brighton Ontario. Don Davis will be there to tag Monarch Butterflies from 1:00 pm to 3:oo pm both days. You will get a chance to release a tagged butterfly.
Don interspersed his talk frequently with the Phrase “Plant Milkweed”. This was the resounding message that he left us with.