On Aug. 22nd, Cora Lund Preston of the group Monarch Joint Venture traveled all the way from the University of Minnesota, where the program is based, to Memphis to share her knowledge of monarch butterflies with interested members of the Midsouth community. After an excellent all-day workshop on monarch butterfly biology for which every spot was filled, a large crowd of 90 or so people turned out for Cora's evening lecture entitled "Monarch Butterfly Conservation." Both events were held at Memphis Botanic Garden with which WRC partners to deliver our annual lecture series sponsored by Buckman.
The workshop participants learned how to contribute to the Monarch Larvae Monitoring Project (MLMP), a citizen science project which involves tracking the number and stage of development of young monarchs on selected milkweed plants. Although Cora had brought live specimens for close examination, the group was also able to observe larvae on milkweed in the Botanic Garden's butterfly habitat as well as adults in flight.
At the lecture that evening Cora emphasized the need to plant milkweed and lots of it to produce enough eastern monarchs to maintain the unique, multi-generational migration to and from Mexico each year. As with any insect, monarchs are subject to high mortality rates from natural predators, parasites, and extreme weather, among other things. Only high population numbers can provide the buffer necessary for the migration to survive such unavoidable mortality
Cora was accompanied on her journey down south by several monarch larvae in various stages of development and by several adult monarch butterflies, placed carefully into glassine envelopes to protect their wings. Both adults and larvae seemed unfazed by the trip, feeding on the flowers and milkweed inside their display containers. We wish to thank both Cora and the Minnesota monarchs for coming to Tennessee for the first time ever, and to Buckman for providing the financial support which allowed them all to be here!
Meggan Kiel and her two children look for larvae.
Cora Lund Preston discusses monarch butterfly development.