Friday, August 21, 2020

DCP takes part in Monarch Monitoring

On July 28th, park naturalists Mandy Martin and Megan Schmidt took part in the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP). The two naturalists worked together to survey over 100 milkweed plants at Shawnee Prairie Preserve. During this survey, they searched for eggs, different stages (instars) of caterpillars, pupae and adults. After over an hour of inspecting each milkweed plant, they were able to report that they found sixteen eggs, eight 1st instar caterpillars, one 2nd instar caterpillar, two 3rd instar caterpillars, and four adults. This data was then submitted to Monarch Joint Venture online. Collecting and reporting this data is very important in conservation efforts for the monarch butterfly. 

In the early spring, monarchs begin their migration north from Mexico. This generation flies to the gulf states and begin to lay their eggs. Shortly after, they die and the next generation emerges and flies further north. The third generation spends its summer in Ohio. They will mate and lay eggs creating the “methuselah generation” that will then migrate south. Unlike its ancestors who lived a short four to five weeks tops, these migratory Monarchs will live up to eight months, so they can successfully migrate thousands of miles to the oyamel fir forests in Mexico, overwinter there, and then migrate north in the spring to start the process over again. This makes Ohio an interesting area for citizen science projects like MLMP, but also tagging and tracking migration patterns.

Monarch caterpillars are dependent on milkweed alone as a host plant. By eating the toxic leaves of the plant, they are able to develop a protective defense from predators. As the number of milkweed plants decline, it directly impacts the monarch population. This is why Darke County Parks naturalists continue to urge everyone to plant milkweed to save the monarchs. They also invite you to take part in citizen science projects such as the MLMP! This type of community-based science not only contributes to existing scientific data it also educates and engages the public (YOU!) on critical environmental issues. 

For more information on how you can help save the Monarch butterfly, feel free to reach out to park naturalists. You can also visit or for more information.

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