Hmm? and Ah!

Hmm? and Ah!


By Rick Mikula (February 2019)


Got two items for you today one will make you go Hmm while the other will make you say Ahh. First the Hmm. The poor migrating Monarchs have enough obstacles on their route but there is one that very few people ever consider, Road kills.


Dr. Andy Davis at the Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia published in the journal Biology Letters, Davis stated that the single-largest cause of Monarch mortality is roadways. He estimated that some 25 million butterflies die each year either by being run over, whacked by windshields or caught on the grills of cars and trucks. Keep in mind that is each year.


Biologists Tuula Kantola of the University of Helsinki and Robert Coulson at Texas A&M University published a report in the Journal Biological Conservation that described their roadside counts of dead Monarchs in southern Texas during Fall migration. Before entering into Mexico most of North America’s eastern Monarch population passes through an area in Southwestern Texas referred to as the “Central Funnel,”


Kantola’s team found an average of 3.4 dead Monarchs per 100 meters of road. If extrapolated their findings to include the entire Central Funnel corridor that would translates into some 4.7 million Monarchs or 3 percent of the entire overwintering population. The project was repeated the following year with matching results.


Now that was just in Texas but, another study done along the Illinois interstates during the six-week period of migration experienced a total 500,000 fatalities. That number does not take into account of how many butterflies stayed stuck to vehicles or blew off into the roadside vegetation. So, at best their findings are at very least conservative.


Although these studies weren’t long ranged researched projects the number of fatalities they found is staggering. But these studies do take me back a bit. I first started to study butterflies in 1980. Being a total novice one of my best suppliers of mounting livestock was a cross country tractor trailer driver. Alan’s route was New York City to Los Angeles and he would always make a pit stop at my house for me to see what specimens I could recover from his grill. Got some nice ones too and still have a few of them on the wall. That was 39 years ago and many more trucks and highways have sprung up since then along with the number of fatalities that resulted from them.


Now the for the Ah! The United State Golf Association has stepped up to the tee and score a hole in one for Monarchs!


Most people think of golf courses as areas of perfectly groomed greens with herbicide laden fairways and macadam paths that could never be considered as an oasis for butterflies. Well maybe yes or maybe no.


In general, most golf courses are of calendar picture worthy. According to Dr. Kimberly Erusha, managing director of the U.S. Golf Association’s (USGA) Green Section about 70 percent of most golf course acreage is managed for out-of-play areas. "That’s an ideal habitat area where we can contribute to Monarch butterfly and pollinator conservation," she stated.


The USGA is now helping to fund an Audubon International project called ‘Monarchs in the Rough. Their goal for 2018 was to establish Monarch habitats on 250 golf courses around the country by planting milkweed and other pollinator flowers on at least one acre per course. Now with additional funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, their goal for 2019 is to add another 500 more courses to the roster. This is a concept that can really help the dwindling numbers of California Monarchs. Instead of landscaping with sterile hybrids and cultivars they could plant their roughs with milkweed and native blooming nectar sources. And contrary to popular belief Monarchs really love eucalyptus trees, a lovely addition to any mild climate golf course.


Who knows, with a little bit of luck when someone shouts Fore at a golf course someone else may shout back there are six more over here!

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