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All About Monarchs: The Royals of the Butterfly World

May 3, 2018By
All About Monarchs: The Royals of the Butterfly World

Monarch butterflies, which pollinate many different kinds of wildflowers, are among nature’s great wonders. Their annual migration is one of the most awe-inspiring on Earth: Each fall, millions of these striking black-and-orange butterflies take flight on a 3,000-mile journey across the U.S. and Canada to wintering grounds in Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains.

The monarch population, which is determined by measuring the number of hectares the butterflies occupy in their Mexico habitat, has declined to 2.48 hectares—almost 30 percent less than last year’s population.

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The Right Way to Remember Rachel Carson

March 26, 2018By
The Right Way to Remember Rachel Carson

The house, on an island in Maine, perches on a rock at the edge of the sea like the aerie of an eagle. Below the white-railed back porch, the sea-slick rock slopes down to a lumpy low tideland of eelgrass and bladder wrack, as slippery as a knot of snakes.

Periwinkles cling to rocks; mussels pinch themselves together like purses. A gull lands on a shaggy-weeded rock, fluffs itself, and settles into a crouch, bracing against a fierce wind rushing across the water, while, up on the cliff, lichen-covered trees—spruce and fir and birch—sigh and creak like old men on a damp morning.

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Monarch butterfly migration was off this year and researchers are worried

January 21, 2018By
Monarch butterfly migration was off this year and researchers are worried

Thanksgiving was right around the corner, and a sizable number of one of America’s most famous migrants could be seen still sputtering south. Not across the Texas-Mexico border, where most monarch butterflies should be by that time of year. These fluttered tardily through the migratory funnel that is Cape May, N.J., their iconic orange-and-black patterns splashing against the muted green of pines frosted by the season’s first chill.

This delayed migration is not normal, and it alarmed monarch researchers across the country.

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Recent Triumphs for Science and “Silent Spring”

December 10, 2017By
Recent Triumphs for Science and “Silent Spring”

Two serious diseases (one in people and one in animals) transmitted by insects have been totally eliminated from specific locations. Such news would be noteworthy in any season. During this environmentally troubled holiday period especially it merits celebrating and sharing with friends, relatives and colleagues in the year ahead. Why?

Because the methods used in each case involved science-based strategies that minimized or removed reliance on toxic chemical pesticides.

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Butterfly Mortality and Salvage Logging

September 17, 2017By
Butterfly Mortality and Salvage Logging

A severe late spring storm in central Mexico in March 2016 that struck the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve was unique because it was accompanied by high-velocity winds that eliminated the normal thermal protection provided by the Oyamel fir forest.

Temperatures throughout the forest merged with the colder open-area ambient temperatures. The storm was in effect a rain and snow storm sandwiched within a powerful and sustained wind storm, followed by lethal freezing that killed 31–38% of the butterflies in the Sierra Chincua and Cerro Pelón overwintering colonies. Several lines of evidence point to greater than 40% mortality of monarchs in the Rosario colony.

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A Late Summer Place for Wonder: The Carson House Pollinator Garden

September 3, 2017By
A Late Summer Place for Wonder: The Carson House Pollinator Garden

Early in 1958 after living for 6 months in her new house on Berwick Road Rachel Carson started the four year long writing project that would become her renowned Silent Spring.

Rachel’s observations of the nature she loved from the wide windows of her home provided joyful relief from the gathering of somber subject matter for her new book and served to remind her of a compelling reason for accepting this challenge –the urgent need to protect life on the planet from toxic chemical pesticide threats.

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Can the Monarch Highway Help Save a Butterfly Under Siege?

July 12, 2017By
Can the Monarch Highway Help Save a Butterfly Under Siege?

The population of North American monarch butterflies has plummeted from 1 billion to 33 million in just two decades. Now, a project is underway to revive the monarch by making an interstate highway the backbone of efforts to restore its dwindling habitat.

Interstate 35 lies at the heart of a vast circulatory system, one of the massive transportation arteries that enable Americans to move long distances quickly.

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Restoring monarch butterfly habitat in the Midwestern US: ‘all hands on deck’

July 5, 2017By
Restoring monarch butterfly habitat in the Midwestern US: ‘all hands on deck’

The eastern migratory population of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) has declined by 80% within the last two decades. One possible cause of this decline is the loss of 1.3 billion stems of milkweed (Asclepias spp.), which monarchs require for reproduction.

In an effort to restore monarchs to a population goal established by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and adopted by Mexico, Canada, and the US, we developed scenarios for amending the Midwestern US landscape with milkweed.

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