WDEL Blog: Eclectic Hobbies with Allan Loudell

Monarchs starting to show up in Delaware in greater numbers

After the Monarch population implosion last year - an apparent consequence of U.S. agricultural practices; reduction of milkweed habitat; and the contraction of overwintering sites in Mexico - it was an open question whether many of us would see ANY Monarchs here in Delmarva this year. Well, they're starting to show up, albeit in smaller numbers.

Ironically, I first saw them this year in St. Maarten/St. Martin two weeks ago, and then in southwestern Ontario, before seeing my first Monarch here in the U.S.

But driving south on the Pennsylvania Turnpike around Scranton, I'm pretty sure the orangish butterflies flying over the highway were Monarchs and not Great Spangled Fritillaries.

And then I saw them for sure off Route 273 and Old Baltimore Pike in Christiana during the annual NABA butterfly count this past Saturday conducted locally by the Delaware Nature Society.

Also, starting to get some Vanessa species -- Red Admirals and Ladies -- species which seem to swing from population booms to population crashes.

Apart from indiscriminate use of pesticides, urban sprawl - habitat depletion - can explain the disappearance of some butterflies from particular neighborhoods. One field in west Newark, adjacent to a shopping center, that we always checked out each July literally disappeared over the course of a year. Sometimes drainage areas are the only remaining habitat.

If you want to see the species list for our count in western New Castle County, scan down for my entry on the "Recent Sightings" list on the website of the North American Butterfly Association...


Also, I've been seeing some of the big showy Silkmoths of late, particularly Imperial and the Regal, or Royal Walnut Moth...

Posted at 7:01pm on July 28, 2014 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Mike from Delaware
Tue, Jul 29, 2014 8:13am
Allan: In my yard, I've seen a few of the smaller white/light yellow butterflies and the other day a black-with-orange markings butterfly, and earlier in the season, another large butterfly.

My wife has a couple of flower gardens so I don't know if those attract butterflies or not, but we're seeing more than we usually do.

The other thing I don't see often, at least in my neighborhood, is lightning bugs. We were visiting friends near Northeast, Maryland, a couple of weeks ago [they live out in the country], and when it became dusk we saw some lightning bugs as we sat in their backyard, not a bunch, but a few. Still they were a good thing to see.

Tue, Jul 29, 2014 9:49am
I've seen at least three Red Admirals so far in my backyard.

Mon, Sep 1, 2014 11:38am
Sorry, getting here late, just backtracked through the topics. Couple of observations...

One, though Allan saw Monarchs, upon looking over the link he provided, most of the volunteers list only one, though one other enthusiast (Mr. Cuba) saw six caterpillars on swamp milkweed. My question, is that level of observation low? n normal years, weren't the counts much higher? Or is that just the normal viewing one normally gets spending 1-2 hours in the field?

Second question. Did the Eastern Tiger Swallowtails dissipate from this year to last? Last year there was a plethora, this year I've crossed paths with only one.

Third question. Not surprised at St. Maarten. There is little GMO roundup field between it and the Mexican forests. But Ontario, makes me wonder if one could have imported monarch eggs and applied them to milkweed. I looked into it here, but was discouraged by the lack of milkweed I would have for them to feed. But I know that is an option. At some future broadcast, I would be interested in how those eggs were harvested... Are there really such things as Monarch farms? If so, how do they handle the migration urge... ?

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