Consider participating in a study headed by Sandy Koi about the migratory patterns of monarch butterflies. Encourage others to join in. A great student or Scout project.
Hi Brevard friends,
I am asking for some passive monitoring from you all and anyone else who wants to do so.
Background: There are four basic "flyways" in North America that birds, butterflies, dragonflies and other winged animals use to migrate: The "Pacific Flyway", the "Central Flyway", the "Mississippi Flyway" and the "Atlantic Flyway." We live on the Atlantic Flyway, of course. There has been on-going assumption for years in the scientific world that any Monarch that migrates south to Florida from anywhere north of here, gets caught up in local 'resident' populations and never leaves (Knight-Brower paper is the most recent, attached).
But, I have witnessed hundreds of Monarchs along the east coast, flying south in what is called "directed flight" (meaning they are going somewhere, not just aimlessly wandering around looking for nectar). In one observation, the Monarchs were flying south in a dense squadron with Gulf Fritillaries, which got their name because they have been documented flying over the Gulf of Mexico! In that instance, the butterflies were flying very fast with a tail wind, and we counted as many as 150/hour. I do not think they were flying along the coastline so intently so that they could turn right in Miami and spend the rest of their lives in Coral Gables.
I suspect, as does another lepidopterist, that they continue down the coast, to Key West, then Cuba, then the Yucatan, where they DO turn right and make their way to the oyamel forests in Mexico with the others who have flown down the Mississippi and Central flyways., and possibly some Pacific flyways, too (California also has a resident population). We also suspect that in the Spring our migratory Monarchs then fly north to the Central States with their congeners from Mexico; in other words, they do not reverse their path in order to fly back up north via Yucatan-Cuba-Florida onwards to Georgia, etc.
The GAP is that we do not have enough information (witnessing/documentation) on the phenomenon of migratory Monarchs in Florida. Davis recorded that migratory Monarchs also have thicker, "redder" scales than our resident butterflies which is simply because they need thicker scales on their wings to bolster their long flight to Mexico. I have one anecdotal record of 'redder' Monarchs in a south Florida garden 10 years ago. I mention this because I am asking for two things from you because you live on a barrier island.
So here's the request: Record any Monarchs that you see that appear brighter, more orange-red, etc., in your garden, especially is flying through (not staying), and any Monarch that you see in directed flight along the coast heading south this OCTOBER, prime migration time for them. And note if you see them in flight with Gulf Fritillaries.
This is the first stage; obviously, it doesn't tell us where they are going or from where they came (yet), but first we have to prove that we do have Monarchs that are in directed flight south; then we'll figure out where they are going by tagging. The problem is that because the given narrative is that Florida does not have migratory Monarchs, there is no money from USFWS or FWC or anywhere else to study our Monarch populations.
And share with anyone who may be interested in gathering the first stage of info.
Thanks in advance!