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A long-term survey of spring monarch butterflies in north-central Florida

Brower, Lincoln P., Williams, Ernest H., Dunford, Kelly Sims, Dunford, James C., Knight, Amy L., Daniels, Jaret, Cohen, James A., Van Hook, Tonya, Saarinen, Emily, Standridge, Matthew J., Epstein, Samantha W., Zalucki, Myron P., Malcolm, Stephen B.
Journal of natural history 2018 v.52 no.31-32 pp. 2025-2046
Asclepias, Danaus plexippus, adults, butterflies, eggs, host plants, immatures, monitoring, overwintering, phenology, spring, surveys, Florida, Mexico
Long-term springtime counts of immature and adult monarch butterflies and their Asclepias humistrata host plants in north-central Florida reveal a close relationship between the milkweed’s phenology and the butterfly’s spring remigration from Mexico. Remigrant adults arrive after most frosts occur and as the milkweeds are flourishing but before the plants begin to senesce. The peak of adult arrival is during the first few days in April; the eggs that are laid during this peak develop through April, leading to a second peak in adult abundance in early May. These newly emerged adults continue the migration northward. In addition to assessing the phenology of annual events, our long-term survey, with regular monitoring from 1994–2017, has enabled us to evaluate long-term trends. Both adults and immatures have declined in abundance from 1985 to 2017; since 2005, both have declined by around 80%. This decline has occurred concurrently with the decline in the number of monarchs at their Mexican overwintering sites.