On March 13, the World Wildlife Federation Mexico released its estimate of the monarch butterfly overwintering population. The Federation said that the butterflies were expected to be about half the density of last year's population.
This year my monarch observations were definitely different than last year. I viewed monarchs steady all summer, but no real increase in numbers during the height of their migration. This year my earliest sighting was on Aug. 3. There have been some years where the orange and black winged insects haven't shown up in my yard until late September or early October. I observed about one or two monarchs at a time this year. That was nothing like last year on Oct. 2, where I had as high as seven in the garden at time. This year they didn't seem to take the bait of the Mexican sunflowers growing in the garden. The monarchs seemed to prefer the New England asters flowering in the neighboring field. My last sighting of a monarch this year was on Oct. 6.
Wondering if it was just the dry weather locally, I took to Facebook to see what other butterfly watchers had to say about this season.
"The first monarch I saw this year was on May 26 in Westmoreland County. The last one was on Oct. 22 in Allegheny County, but it is still possible to see some, especially with this beautiful weather we are having. It seems like it was a fairly average year for them. They were in my yard daily all summer long, but not as many as last year," Lehman posted in early November.
Greg Kedzierski, a Butterflies and Moths of Pennsylvania group member located in Crawford County, posted that he saw the last monarchs of the year during the second or third week of September.
"I have a patch common milkweed patch in my yard, 200 plants strong, I had them all season with one period of 12 to 15 butterfly at one time. I work at Ernst Seed and our fields are always loaded," Kedzierski added.
Karl Gardner posted, "The first monarch I saw this year in Berks County was on June 6, nectaring on Dame's Rocket, and the first I know of in Berks was on May 31 by Rebecca Reppert."
Gardner also added at link for the first dates by month for Berks County located at http://www.berkscountynature.org/butterflies2020.html.
"My location is Point Township, Northumberland, Waystation 24255. My first sighting was mile from my house on June 29. The first monarch sighted at my waystation was on July 3. I saw her laying eggs in my common and swamp milk week. On the same, day I harvested eggs. The last day I harvested eggs was Sept. 4,
McCollum added that the last monarch she saw at waystation was on Oct. 4. It was feeding on zinnias and ironweed.
Brenda Troutman of Chester County, had a male monarch in her garden on Nov. 12.
Randy Bollinger, posted on Nov. 8, that he had seen a monarch the day before and thought the sighting was odd.
The users were right to be concerned with some of the late sightings. The Journey North posted that it's weekly monarch updates on their journeys south would conclude on Nov. 25, but that it would post periodic updates from some of the monarch sanctuaries.
"Its wing was deformed and could not fly. ... been feeding it sugar water and apples." Marks added that she couldn't believe it lived through the cold spell here in Carlisle last week or so."
McCollum responded to Marks and provided some information to possibly help the monarch.
McCollum also provided her rearing numbers for 2020. She reported that she had 214 this year compared to 150 in 2019.
Meanwhile, the page Fun Raising Monarch & Danaus Butterflies a Learning Experience Globally, is a wealth of information for those interested in learning more and /or raising monarchs.
The group's creator Ricardo E. Bacallao, who resides in Camden, New York, is in his fifth year of raising monarchs. Bacallao has compiled a book of reference materials that will help anyone from beginners to those with more experience.
Maeckle referenced her information on a paper published by migration studies expert Andy Davis, a professor at the Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia and editor of the Migration Studies Journal.
Maeckle wrote that in his paper Davis "contends that while modest declines in the overwintering populations are evident, monarchs may be more resilient than other insect species whose populations are crashing during a time that has been called the insect apocalypse – a storm of climate change, pesticide abuse and habitat destruction."
Posts on the Fun Raising Monarch & Danaus Butterflies a Learning Experience Globally, were cautiously optimistic with most folks saying more studies were needed.
Decline or increase in numbers aside, it is great to see that so many northern folks will watch and wait for the orange and gold beauties to make their journey north next year. That's just the nature of things 'round here.
Apparently I had unknowingly crushed some wild mint. Mentha arvensis, also known as wild mint, corn mint, or field mint, is common according to some websites. It seemed kind of ironic to me that it was fairly common as I really hadn't seen it much on my daily walks.
However, if the common plant is not commonly in an area that one commonly walks, it may not be common knowledge to that person. Anyway, the Lady bird Johnson Wildflower center in a post said that mentha arvensis is one of the few native mints. "This aromatic perennial has glands containing essential oils, and the leaves are used as flavorings in sauces, jellies, and beverages," the post continued.