Wednesday, October 26, 2016

4-H Money for Monarchs

The Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri 4-H and Grow Native! retailers are partnering to provide mini grants to participants of the 4-H Monarch Habitat Project. This cooperative effort provides $50 vouchers to 4-H groups willing to plant at least 100 square feet of monarch habitat. The grants are being funded by the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation. The $50 vouchers are good at Grow Native! plant retailers to cover up to half the cost of the plants for monarch habitat plantings in highly visible locations such at city parks, county courthouses
and school grounds. Get details, voucher applications and educational resources at

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Monarch group hires coordinator

Jason Jenkins

New position provides dedicated leadership to Missourians for Monarchs Collaborative

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever recently named Jason Jenkins as the organization’s new monarch & pollinator coordinator in the state of Missouri. Collaborating with a statewide coalition of public and private interests, Jenkins will work to increase and sustain habitat for monarch butterflies and other pollinators through citizen involvement and seek ways for partners, communities and agencies to coordinate similar efforts.

“We’re excited to join together with more than 30 partners in the Missourians for Monarchs Collaborative to make this position a reality and develop new opportunities for increasing overall pollinator habitat in the state,” said Elsa Gallagher, Pheasant Forever and Quail Forever’s Missouri statewide quail coordinator. “This position is the first of its kind in the nation created to directly address the issue of pollinator conservation. Jason’s extensive communications experience and diverse skillset, combined with his enthusiasm for conservation and love of the outdoors, make him the ideal person to lead and implement our statewide monarch and pollinator conservation plan.”

During the past two decades, monarch butterfly populations have declined by an estimated 90 percent due to factors including habitat loss and a lack of milkweed plants, the sole host plant used by the monarch during its egg and larval stages. Missourians for Monarchs formed in 2015 as a statewide initiative to address monarch and pollinator conservation in the state. In August 2016, Collaborative partners signed a Memorandum of Understanding committed to creating and maintaining 19,000 acres of pollinator habitat annually for the next 20 years.

The Collaborative includes conservation and agricultural organizations, state and federal agencies as well as utilities, agribusinesses and cooperatives. Funding partners for the Coordinator include the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, Missouri Department of Conservation, MFA Incorporated, Monsanto and Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever.

"For conservationists, few issues are of as great a concern as that of declining pollinator populations,” said Jason Jenkins, monarch and pollinator coordinator for the Missourians for Monarchs Collaborative. “These insects serve a vital role in our food production systems and sustain our native plant communities. The consequences of losing these species are disastrous. I’m looking forward to becoming an ambassador and advocate for the monarch while we increase and sustain habitat for all pollinators in Missouri."

An award-winning writer, photographer and videographer, Jenkins brings more than 15 years of communications experience to this new position. He earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism from the University of Missouri, focusing on fisheries and wildlife management. He previously worked for both University of Missouri Extension and the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, where he served as managing editor for Rural Missouri magazine. Jenkins is an avid hunter, angler and outdoorsman who relishes sharing his passion for the natural world with his wife, Allison, and three children, Aiden, Carly and Ashlyn. For more information about Missourians for Monarchs, contact Jason Jenkins at 573-301-4187 or

Monday, February 8, 2016

February Newsletter

Please note that because what follows is a jpg of the newsletter, the links within will not function.  Please contact for an e-copy of the newsletter with functional links. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Great Migration—Kingdom of the Monarchs

Guest Blog by Joyce Oberle

That the Monarch Butterfly’s journey to Mexico is the greatest of all insect migrations is an accepted and obvious truism.   Every year millions of Monarchs from Canada and the United States begin the long and arduous journey to the mountains of Central Mexico where they will hibernate, roosting on one specific tree, the oyamel fir tree. 

It is a sad commentary that the Monarch population has declined by ninety per cent in the last two decades.  Loss of habitat in the United States and logging of the oyamel tree in Mexico have been the harbingers of the Monarch’s plight.   Knowing this, I began studying in earnest about six years ago wanting to learn as much as I could about this beautiful insect.   In time, I began sharing what I had learned with others who also shared my interests. 
It was this past summer, however, as I again was raising the little caterpillars that visited my milkweed plants, that I decided it was time for me to journey to Mexico and experience firsthand the Monarch’s dauntless travels.

I was delighted when my friend Lil Collins agreed to accompany me.  Travel arrangements solidified, we were on our way to Mexico on the ninth of January.  Mexico City was our first stop, meeting our traveling companions and our guides.  Early the next morning, fourteen eager travelers and three guides boarded a bus and began the four hour trip to the quaint, little town of Angangueo.   After checking into our hotel and enjoying a delicious lunch of the local cuisine, we were ushered onto the bed of two trucks.   Ten miles up the mountain, we switched from the trucks to horses.  It was one mile traveling on horseback and then one final mile on foot.  At long last, we finally arrived at the butterfly sanctuary, El Rosario Sanctuary, to be more explicit.  
All photos used in this Blog are courtesy of the photographer, Wendy Caldwell of Monarch Joint Venture
One does not immediately grasp the essence of what is before them.   Looking out at the vast expanse of the oyamel trees and then finally realizing that what has inundated branches and trunk alike is the immense array of millions of butterflies.  Although I have seen pictures of the various sanctuaries, to view them in reality is almost akin to a spiritual experience.  It was midafternoon, and the heat of the sun began caressing the trees, providing needed warmth so that many of the butterflies began to take flight around the sanctuary giving us the opportunity for many great pictures.  
Because the local inhabitants are so protective of the butterflies the area is cordoned off, and one can get no closer to the trees then perhaps forty to fifty feet.  Guards are also positioned at the sanctuaries. Both men and women take turns standing guard.  As the afternoon sun began to leave the sanctuary, we finished pictures and videos and began our long trip back to our hotel. 

Early the next morning, we headed to the second sanctuary.  The weather was against us, and it was quite cold.  Arriving at the sanctuary, again by horseback and by foot, it was obvious that the butterflies were too cold to take flight.  For them to be able to fly, the temperature must be at least sixty degrees, and it was not even close to that.  After a few hours of waiting for sunshine and warmth that didn’t arrive, we began our trip back to the base camp. Although we were still able to see many Monarchs roosting in the trees, it would have been less disappointing if we could have watched them flying about the sanctuary.  Oh well, it was still an awesome sight.

I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the kindness and gracious demeanor of the local people.  Certainly the many food dishes that we got to sample and eat were first rate.  Although the hotel in Angangueo had no heat, we did have a small space heater that the hotel provided.  The week passed all too quickly, and soon we were in the airport in Mexico City ready to begin our trip back to the United States.

Yet I couldn’t help but make the comparison between the Monarchs and us.  In a few hours, we would be back at Lambert’s in St. Louis, an easy trip at best.    Nevertheless, these fragile creatures fly thousands of miles over at least two months’ time, often in unpredictable weather.  It is still a mystery as to how they are able to find the oyamel trees never having been there before.   Perhaps we may never know.

As I finish my story, I am reminded of a quote by the great Andy Warhol.  He states, “They always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”  And so it is with the Monarchs.  Time has changed things significantly for them and not in a good way.  But now at long last, many caring and concerned people from federal to local levels have become aware of the butterflies challenges and are wanting to assist them.  Already, we are seeing positive results.  Vast numbers of individuals in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and many other countries are willing to  do  their part so that future generations, our children and grandchildren, will see the Monarchs, not from books, but outside on  a warm summer day flying around looking for milkweed.

Joyce Oberle is a Missouri Master Naturalist with the Miramiguoa Chapter and a member of the Franklin County Master Gardeners.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Consider Native Bees When Gardening for Monarchs

Guest blog and photos by Tom Schroeder 

We all want to improve our garden habitats to increase the number of Monarch Butterflies.  We can increase the number of Native Bees while we are at it by just adding a few gardening practices.

Native Bees are small harmless creatures ranging in size from a quarter inch Miner Bee to an inch and a half Bumblebee.  They will ignore your presence in the garden and go about their business of gathering pollen and nectar for their nests.  They add beauty, interest, and pollinating services to the garden.

carpenter bees
The population of many Native Bees species have declined because of loss and degradation of habitat and pesticide overuse.  These are some of the same reasons for the decline of the Monarch Butterfly.  We can start to turn that around by improving their habitat in our yards.

Both Monarchs and Native Bees required continuous blooming flowers from April to November.  They both prefer to feed on three foot by three foot patches of the same flowers rather than scattered individual flowers. Where Bees and Monarchs differ is in the type of flowers they utilize.  Many Native Bees have short tongues and need open flower forms.  Native Bees also seek pollen for nesting and not just nectar for fuel.

Excellent Native Bee Plants on the Backyard Habitat for Monarchs plant list are: Culver’s Root for late spring; Purple Coneflower, Rattlesnake Master, Wild Bergamot, and Rosinweed for the summer; Smooth and Sky Blue Aster and Rigid Goldenrod for the fall.  For Native Bees you might also try native species of early spring blooming Serviceberry and Spiderwort and summer blooming Helenium, Penstemon, Agastache, and Verbena.  Unfortunately, Milkweed does not make its pollen available to a bee and requires a long tongue to reach its nectar so it is not a very useful flower to a small bee.

It is well known that Monarch’s need milkweed plants to raise their young.  Native Bees need bare dirt.  Seventy percent of Native Bee species nest in the ground.  The other 30 percent use plant stems or beetle tunnels in wood.  In your plantings for the Monarchs, leave some bare dirt patches for the little bees to use for nesting.  Also leave a few one foot sections of some of the previous year’s plant stems upright in the garden for bee nesting.  Milkweed stems could make an excellent nesting spot for a little bee.
green sweat bees

Limit pesticide and herbicide use including not purchasing seedlings treated with neonicotinoids.  Testing has shown pollen collected by honey bees can contain up to 6 different pesticides.  Even in low concentrations, pesticides affect bee behavior in negative ways.

Monarchs and Native Bees have coexisted in habitats for thousands of years.  By improving your garden habitat for both, you will be continuing that long association. 

Tom Schroeder retired in 2015 and finally got to complete his Master Naturalist certification.  He is a long time volunteer with Kansas City Wildlands specializing in prairie plant seed collection.  He is an avid photographer and gardener with a passion for native bees.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Monarch Census--The Winter Survey

Guest Blog by Mary Nemecek, Missouri Master Naturalist Osage Trails Chapter.

On November 3rd, around mid-day, monarchs began arriving in Angangueo, Mexico.  Angangueo sits just below the two largest wintering grounds formonarch butterflies.  This signals the end of their fall migration and the beginning of their winter spent on the Oyamel trees in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.   

Here the monarchs will overwinter, hanging in heavy clusters, earning  them the honor of being the 2nd most dense concentration of animals in the world (krill being #1).  In March, they will become active, begin to breed and move back north.

During the winter scientists will survey the amount of land covered by monarchs on the biosphere and estimate population numbers.  The number of hectares (ha) covered by monarchs is usually reported in late January and an estimate of the monarch population is released.  Monarchs are counted at 50 million monarchs per hectare.  One hectare equals 2.47 acres.
These monarchs are roosting in Kansas
on their way to Mexico. Photo by Mary Nemecek

The history of the number of monarchs estimated per hectare is interesting and heartbreaking.  Originally, after years of study through different methodology, monarchs were estimated at 10 million/ha.  That was until a winter storm hit the overwintering grounds in 2002 and millions of butterflies were killed.  It's estimated 75% of the population was lost during the storm.  However this gave scientists the opportunity to count butterflies. One square meter held  2,241 dead monarchs.  This alone would have brought the number per hectare to 22.4 million.  But not all the monarchs perished and there were still many more in the trees.  In other areas the numbers were even higher.  Eventually scientists came to the conclusion that each hectare held a population of 50 million monarchs.
These are monarchs roosting at their Mexican
overwintering site in Mexico.  Photo from

An all time low of .67 ha was reached during the winter of 2013/2014.  Last winter the number bumped up to 1.13 ha but nowhere near what scientists would like to see for a sustainable population.  Dr. Chip Taylor with Monarch Watch would like to see the number at 4 ha and US Fish and Wildlife Services have set a goal for 6 ha.

Earlier this month, when Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel visited the reserves with Mexican Environment Secretary Rafael Pacchiano , news sources around the world reported predictions of a large increase in overwintering populations to 3 or 4 times over  last winter.  If true, this could get the monarchs to Dr. Taylor's minimum threshold of 4 ha.  However, Dr. Taylor is more conservative in his predictions.  "I've been predicting at least a doubling of the population and that seems justified based on the success of the tagging program," wrote Dr. Taylor in a recent post. 
The number of data sheets returned for tagged monarchs shows almost double the number of monarchs tagged this year compared to last year.  Dr. Taylor said roughly 80,000 plus monarchs were tagged in 2015.  Additionally, Dr. Taylor points out, the conditions this year were similar to 2011 when the overwintering population came in at 2.89 ha.

As  the world holds their breath for good weather on the wintering grounds and a big count, there is still more work to do to ensure a continued, sustainable, migratory monarch population.  USFWS estimates it takes 29 stems of milkweed to produce one overwintering monarch.   That leaves an additional 1.5 billion milkweed stems needed in the mid-west to achieve a 6 ha overwintering population.  Lots of planning and planting left to do.