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Plausible Negative Consequences of Protecting the Monarch
under the Endangered Species Act

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Rose Franklin’s Perennials

107 Butterfly Lane

Spring Mills, PA  16875

814-422-8968

Contact: Rose Franklin

RoseFranklin@aol.com

Company Profile

   Rose Franklin’s Perennials is an online nursery specializing in growing plants which attract hummingbirds and butterflies to the garden. Their web site, www.ButterflyBushes.com, offers access to lots of information on hummingbird- and butterfly-gardening. The company also offers Monarch eggs, caterpillars, and pupae to individuals, schools, and organizations for summertime rearing projects. Occasionally, the firm provides live butterflies for weddings, parties, open houses, and memorial services.

   While Rose makes most of the business decisions (what plants to grow, etc.), her husband, Andrew Smith, is of vital importance in the operation. Andy tends to all the details, making sure shipping supplies are restocked, butterflies are well cared for, etc. Rose's mom, sister, sister-in-law, niece, and several neighbors also assist with day-to-day tasks of transplanting plants, watering, and packing orders.

  
During the winter, Rose offers slide show presentations to garden club, school, church, scout, and nature groups. Her presentations explain what butterflies are, describe the life cycle of a butterfly, and teach participants what they can do to assist butterflies in their plight to survive and multiply in number.

   On many occasions, Rose has donated butterflies to schools, nursing homes, and numerous non-profit organizations for butterfly releases. Always the participants are awed by the experience of holding a butterfly and getting a close-up view of its delicate wings and body.

About Rose Franklin

   Rose lives in Spring Mills, Centre County, PA, with her husband, Andrew Smith. For the past twenty years, Rose and Andy have spent their leisure time gardening for butterflies, photographing butterflies, raising butterflies, and writing about butterflies. In August, 2012, Rose published a book entitled Fast Track Butterfly Gardening, which is now available on Amazon.com. Her work days are spent in her retail plant nursery where she grows and sells plants that attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

   As is often the case, Rose’s interest in butterflies was ignited as the result of a tragic mishap. In 1992, the year she launched her nursery business, she killed dozens of white, black, and yellow-striped worm-like critters because they were devouring one of her crops, Bloodflower (also known as Tropical Milkweed).

   That winter she visited Pattee Library on Penn State’s main campus and learned she had killed dozens of caterpillars that would have soon become majestic Monarch butterflies. She also found out that Monarch butterflies are relatively easy to raise. Now feeling guilty about having killed dozens of Monarch caterpillars, she vowed to rear enough Monarchs the next summer to replace what she had robbed from nature the previous year. 

   After a little more winter reading, Rose came to understand that butterfly numbers were dwindling. The consensus among entomologists seemed to be that the butterfly population had decreased by as much as 40% in the past 40 years. Destruction of natural habitat and the use of insecticides were the primary reasons given for the decline in the butterfly population. Human intervention, the willingness of individuals to plant butterfly gardens and, then, to refrain from using insecticides in the garden , was what would likely help to increase the butterfly numbers.

   Rose Franklin was suddenly inspired to plant a butterfly garden. The seeds were planted for what would become a long, rewarding adventure in butterfly gardening, butterfly rearing, butterfly photography, and eventually, publishing on the subject of, guess what, butterflies.

Plausible Negative Consequences of Protecting the Monarch under the Endangered Species Act

                                                                                                                                                                                                          by Rose Franklin        January10, 2015

 

On August 26, 2014, a petition was filed with the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, through the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, to protect the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act. The petitioners (The Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, The Xerces Society, and Dr. Lincoln Brower) state that the North American monarch population has declined by more than 90% in the past two decades and may be threatened with eventual extinction.

I, like most butterfly enthusiasts, am highly concerned by the drastically reduced monarch numbers. But I wonder if adding the monarch to the Endangered Species List will help or hinder the monarch population. I wonder, too, if listing the monarch as an endangered species might, to an even greater extent, deprive humans of its majestic beauty and further increase the distance between mankind and nature.

Entomologists agree that the most significant reason for the plummeting drop in the monarch population is that milkweed is being destroyed at an alarming rate on agricultural grounds, where it once grew wild in abundance. Milkweed is vital to the monarch, for it is the host plant for monarch larvae. Without milkweed to feed the caterpillars, the butterfly cannot complete its lifecycle and thus, the monarch population cannot survive.

Since 1996, when genetically-modified, Roundup-Ready crops were introduced, milkweed has been rapidly disappearing from farmland. Farmers are now able to plant seed without having to first till the soil, and then spray their fields with Roundup to control the weeds. The herbicide kills the weeds (including milkweed) but does not harm the crops. While only Roundup-Ready soybeans were available in 1996, today the list of genetically-modified crops includes soy, corn, canola, alfalfa, cotton, sorghum, wheat, and sugarbeets. Well over 90% of the corn and soy being planted in the U.S. today are Roundup-Ready varieties, and there certainly appears to be a direct correlation between the use of Roundup-Ready crops and the destruction of milkweed in rural North America. And the scientific community agrees that the loss of milkweed has resulted in the alarmingly low monarch numbers.

Out of concern that an iconic species might become extinct, the Endangered Species Act was passed by Congress in 1973. The most serious threats to endangered animal species have traditionally been shooting, poisoning, and trapping. To address these concerns, Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act states that it would be unlawful for any person “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect” the species in danger of extinction. Known as the “take clause,” Section 9 makes it illegal for people to take the threatened species from the wild. The government extended the “take clause” to include the “taking of habitat which harbors, or could harbor, the endangered species.”

If the monarch is added to the Endangered Species List, it will then be illegal for anyone to take a monarch from the wild, and if the Fish and Wildlife Service determines at some point that milkweed is critical to the monarch’s survival, it may be illegal to harm, wound, or kill a milkweed plant.

The petitioners say they recognize the valuable roles that citizen scientist monitoring and tagging, and classroom and in-home rearing of monarchs play in monarch conservation and hence request that upon Endangered Species Act listing, the Fish and Wildlife Service facilitate or waive permitting requirements for teachers and citizen scientists, so long as their rearing endeavors are limited to raising 10 or less monarchs per year.

How likely is it that the Fish and Wildlife Service would allow teachers and citizen scientists to rear monarchs in the home or in the school once the monarch is added to the list? Not very likely at all! Rarely, very rarely, has the Fish and Wildlife Service granted exceptions to the “take clause” and permitted the general public to take the listed animal from the wild and raise it in the home or in the school. If the monarch is indeed listed as a threatened species, it will likely be illegal for any U.S. citizen (except for university professors who are studying the insect) to harass, harm, pursue, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect monarchs. It will almost certainly be illegal to collect any number of monarch eggs, caterpillars, pupae, or adults from the wild.  

Some teachers and citizen scientists, rather than collecting monarch eggs and/or caterpillars from the wild, purchase them from commercial butterfly breeders, the industry that often provides adult monarchs for release at weddings, anniversaries, open houses, memorial services, and fund-raising events. The petitioners, however, ask that all commercial breeding of monarchs be prohibited. Why? Because they somehow concluded that commercial breeders were raising and releasing millions upon millions of monarchs per year, potentially interfering with scientific studies on the distribution and movement of wild monarchs which, the petitioners claim, are increasingly important in light of habitat loss and climate change. In reality, commercial butterfly breeders produce significantly less than 10% of the number of monarchs that the petitioners guessed they do, even if the petitioners' "millions and millions" meant only two million. Nonetheless, if the monarch is added to the Endangered Species List, and if the petitioners request is granted by the Fish and Wildlife Service,  there will be no commercial breeders for teachers and citizen scientists to obtain their ten or less monarch eggs and/or caterpillars from (should they be unable to find them in the wild). And as I stated previously, is is highly doubtful that the Fish and Wildlife Service would make an exception to the "take clause" and allow monarchs to be reared in the home or in the school anyway.

Personally, I would be saddened to think that citizen scientists and school teachers would be forbidden to raise monarchs, thus denying children the rewarding experience of observing the miraculous monarch metamorphosis first-hand. Watching a monarch caterpillar chewing on milkweed is like watching a child chew on an ear of buttered sweet corn. Seeing a caterpillar pupate is nothing less than amazing, and witnessing the emergence of a majestic monarch butterfly from its chrysalis is simply mystical.  

I would also be saddened to think that brides would be deprived of large, beautiful, brightly colored monarchs on the most important day of their lives, and that those mourning the loss of a loved one might have to compromise for small, fast-flying, zig-zagging painted ladies instead of graceful, ballerina-like monarchs. Everyone knows and loves the monarch, and everyone wishes to have monarchs released at their special event. And monarch releases are an environmentally-friendly alternative to throwing rice and/or releasing balloons at weddings and other special events.  

For many people, a butterfly release is their first close-up encounter with a live butterfly. In releasing monarchs, people, often for the first time, experience the amazing, relaxing, mesmerizing feeling that butterflies bring to humans. Many people leave the butterfly release with a goal of attracting monarchs to their gardens. Some newlyweds send a packet of milkweed seeds home with every guest. If monarch releases are banned by the Fish and Wildlife Service, all the people who have experienced the joy of a monarch butterfly release will know that others are being deprived of something quite spectacular, an experience that is beautiful and peaceful, and brings people a little closer to nature.

With so many U.S. citizens now aware of the fact that monarchs are dwindling in number because milkweed is rapidly disappearing from the agricultural landscape, many are eager to aid the monarch in its quest to multiply. Americans have, in the last few years, begun to plant milkweed seeds and plants by the tens of thousands. I know this to be true because I operate a perennial nursery and have watched milkweed sales skyrocket in recent years. And because the monarch has an enormous fan club, I have no doubt that milkweed sales will continue to rise in coming years, in my nursery, and in hundreds more across the nation.. Milkweed might be vanishing from rural farmland, but it is popping up in home gardens, in city parks and state parks and national parks, along nature trails, and in botanical gardens. Within a few years, I suspect we will see that milkweed hasn't disappeared, but instead, was simply redistributed. And with a dramatic increase in the number of milkweed plants will come an increase in the number of monarchs, this assuming, of course, that droughts, floods, and violent storms don’t take their toll on the population.

The monarch is no more at risk of extinction than any other butterfly. Those of us who garden for butterflies have watched the population of most butterfly species dwindle over the past few decades. And last year, the year that the monarch population was at a record low, so too were some other butterfly species at record lows.  

It is widely accepted that  (1) the loss of habitat, and (2) the overuse of insecticides and herbicides are the two factors that have contributed most to the diminishing butterfly population. Here in the northeast, millions of woodland butterfly larvae have likely been killed by aerial spraying that was intended to control the gypsy moth population. Here and elsewhere, insecticides aimed at controlling mosquitoes and other pestilent insects have probably wiped out thousands, and in all likelihood, millions, more butterflies. Butterflies were not the intended targets of the insecticidal spraying, but they have certainly suffered the consequences.  

I think the monarch is fortunate in having an audience that is alert to its needs and is willing to aid it in its time of need. Other butterfly species are not so blessed. My opinion is that the monarch should not be listed as a Threatened Species. Listing it will not likely increase its numbers and may actually decrease their numbers. Planting more milkweed will most assuredly increase the population. Listing the monarch will likely make it illegal to raise monarchs in the home and in the classroom, illegal to release monarchs at weddings and other special events, and illegal to take  monarch eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises, or adults from the wild for any purpose (including education and display). Likely, monarchs will have to be removed from butterfly houses and other such public displays too.

Instead of supporting the petition to list the monarch as an Endangered Species, let’s all just plant more milkweed. I feel assured that will more quickly increase the monarch numbers.

In the past year, I have read numerous articles claiming that too many gardeners are planting the wrong species of milkweed. In planting Tropical Milkweed, the authors of these articles insist, well-intentioned gardeners are actually harming the Monarch, killing the monarchs, some proclaim. Tired of hearing this nonsense, I wrote the following article in response.

Which Milkweed for the Monarchs?

                                                                                                by Rose Franklin,  January 19, 2015

 

Americans are worried about the current status of the Monarch butterfly population, and they should be. Monarch numbers have dramatically declined in the past ten years or so. Some entomologists even wonder if the spectacular annual migration to and from Mexico might one day cease to exist. The over-wintering population in Mexico last winter, 2013-2014, was the smallest ever recorded, about 10% of the 20-year average.

Monarch enthusiasts, knowing that Monarchs must have access to milkweed if the population is to increase, are opting to plant milkweed instead of petunias, impatiens, geraniums, and marigolds. But they are confused about which milkweed species they should plant. Some gardeners are told they should only plant the milkweed species that are native to their area while others hear that almost any milkweed, including those that grow in the tropic jungles of the world, like Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), are suitable hosts for the Monarch.

It was scientists who first began to oppose the planting of Tropical Milkweed. They claimed that because this milkweed species grows year around in some parts of the U.S, it might disrupt the Monarch’s migratory cues in autumn and facilitate in the creation of a large population that does not migrate but, instead, resides year around where Tropical Milkweed grows year around.  And there, where it is not killed off annually by autumn frosts (southern Florida and along the coastal region of the Gulf of Mexico), Tropical Milkweed surely harbors pathogens and facilitates in the increased transmission of disease (especially Oe, Ophryocystis elektroscirrha). Researchers even know that there are, and have been for a number of years, a few small Monarch populations residing year around, and breeding year around, in isolated locations along the Gulf coast.

Migration likely serves several purposes in the well-being of Monarchs. It compels the Monarch to abandon habitat which might be contaminated with pathogens. The long-distance migration also serves to weed out the individuals that are weak and diseased, so that only the healthiest of the population is left to produce offspring the following year.  

Because migration is assuredly advantageous to the health of the Monarch population, I am not comfortable in knowing that even a tiny fragment of the Monarch population has become non-migratory and now breeds year around in a few locations along the southern coast of the U.S. In those areas where Tropical Milkweed does not die in winter, I urge people to refrain from planting it. If it is already planted, I suggest the Tropical Milkweed plants be cut to the ground in autumn and all the debris discarded, thus eliminating the possibility of Monarchs reproducing year around on foliage which might be contaminated with disease. If those residents along the Gulf coast are unwilling or unable to cut their plants to the ground every fall, I advise them to spray their Tropical Milkweed with Roundup, repeatedly until it is completely gone. I don’t generally advocate the use of Roundup, but in this case, I will tolerate its use so that the Monarch will be able to multiply in healthy, disease-free environments.

OK. I agree that in the 3% of the nation where Tropical Milkweed grows year around, it could, and most likely does, harbor and spread disease among the small Monarch population that has chosen to reside and breed there year around. But,  as stated above, this could be prevented if people would cut their Tropical Milkweed plants to the ground every fall. In the other 97% of the U.S. though, I think Tropical Milkweed might well be of benefit to the Monarch, especially at this point in time, when Monarch numbers are swiftly dwindling (though, in my opinion, maybe not any faster than other butterfly species are dwindling in number).  

I do not believe that Monarchs migrating from eastern Canada or the northeastern states of the U.S to Mexico could be persuaded to stay in Pennsylvania or Virginia because they encounter a large stand of Tropical Milkweed growing in a garden. I simply do not believe that. Eastern Monarchs are genetically programmed to make the annual migration to the over-wintering sites in the high-altitude oyamel fir forests in the trans-volcanic mountains of central Mexico. Northeastern Monarchs emerging from pupae between late August and mid-September are in reproductive diapause and thus, not capable of mating and laying eggs. Probably in response to shorter day length, cooler autumn temperatures, and/or the orientation of the sun, they emerge from their pupae, feed on nectar to store sugar in their bodies, and then automatically begin their long journey south.

I have been an avid butterfly gardener for twenty years, and I have grown many species of milkweed in my gardens in central Pennsylvania. My advice, at this particular point in time, is to plant whatever milkweed species will aid the Monarch in its quest to survive and multiply.  

Several years ago, I might have agreed with those who advocate the planting of natives only. Today though, with the Monarch numbers at an all-time low, I advocate that we plant whichever milkweed species Monarchs will readily lay eggs on, and/or whatever milkweed species Monarch caterpillars will readily feed on.

Having had many milkweed species our my yard over the past two decades, my husband and I have seen that, consistently from one year to the next, female Monarchs lay more eggs on Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) than they do on any other milkweed species. Annually, we find 200 or more Monarch caterpillars on the hundreds of milkweed plants growing on our property. At least 70% of those are found feeding on the Tropical Milkweed, not the Pennsylvania native Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), or Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa).

Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), also known as Bloodflower, grows 36” to 48” high, generally blooms from mid-July through frost, and prefers full sun. It is native to tropical South America, Mexico, Central America, and a few torrid islands in the Caribbean and thus, must be treated as an annual in most of the U.S. Tropical Milkweed produces clusters of tiny, star-shaped flowers which might be yellow, yellow/orange, or red/orange bi-colors.

I have to assume that female Monarchs know what they are doing in choosing Tropical Milkweed for the laying of their eggs. If they intrinsically choose to lay eggs on Tropical Milkweed, even when a number of native species are available to them, they must have innate reasoning for doing so. Monarchs are genetically programmed to halt reproduction in fall, inherently wired to make the annual migration to and from Mexico, and I think, innately programmed to know which milkweed species is best suited for their offspring to consume. Maybe Tropical Milkweed is more nutritious than native milkweeds, maybe it has something to do with the amount of cardenolides in it, which, once consumed by the caterpillars, serve to make both the caterpillars and the adult butterflies toxic to birds.

Andy, my husband, and I offer a huge buffet of milkweeds to the Monarchs that visit our property during the summer months. Having a choice of depositing eggs on the hundreds of Common Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed, and Butterfly Weed which grow in our yard, along with other milkweeds too, they overwhelming choose Tropical Milkweed. I don’t know why they choose it, and I don’t care why. I only know that they do.

Aside from advocating the planting of Tropical Milkweed because female Monarchs prefer it for egg-laying, I promote it for another reason also. Tropical Milkweed is highly utilized as a nectar source by fall-migrating Monarchs. In October, when Monarchs are still migrating through Pennsylvania and most flowering plants are far past their prime, Tropical Milkweed is generally still green and, apparently, still producing sweet-flavored nectar. On warm, sunny October days, from late morning through mid-afternoon, our Tropical Milkweed patches are adorned by the flutter of dozens of migrating Monarchs. They stop by, nectar for just a while, and then continue on their way.

Monarchs are in crisis--and so long as they are, and unless someone convinces me that Tropical Milkweed is causing peril to the Monarch (other than in that 3% of the country where it does not freeze out over the winter), I will continue to promote the planting of Tropical Milkweed. I love the Monarch, and my wish is that its population rebounds to the number recorded in Mexico during the winter of 1996-1997, the year the Monarch count was the highest ever recorded.

Rose Franklin’s Glossary of Butterfly Terminology

Abdomen
The last of three sections of a butterfly’s body. The abdomen is composed of ten segments and contains the reproductive organs. Digestive and excretory functions also occur here.

Antenna (singular)
Antennae (plural)
Located on the butterfly’s head, these appendages are equipped with chemical receptors that serve the function of smelling. They also assist the butterfly in balance.

Caterpillar
Larva. The second stage in the life cycle of a butterfly.  

Chrysalis (singular)
Chrysalises, Chrysalides (plural)
Pupa. The shell that encases a caterpillar as it transforms from caterpillar to butterfly.

Cremaster
The hook-like appendage at the end of a caterpillar’s abdomen that is used to attach the caterpillar to its silk-like pad for pupation.  

Eclose
Eclosure, Eclosion

When the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis (pupa).

Egg
The first stage in the life cycle of a butterfly.  

Exoskeleton
The skin-like covering that provides support and protection for an insect’s body.  

Filaments
Fleshy antennae-like extensions at the front or rear of caterpillars which are used as sense organs.

Frass
The waste product (poop) excreted by a caterpillar (larva).  

Hemolymph
The blood-like substance of insects which is usually yellowish in color.  

Instar
The period between caterpillar molts. There are generally five instars during the larval stage.

Larva (singular)
Larvae (plural)
Caterpillar. The second stage in the life cycle of a butterfly.

Lepidoptera
The order of insects which includes butterflies and moths.

Molting
The shedding of skin. Most butterfly larvae molt five times during the larval stage of development.

Oviposit
The laying of eggs.  

Pheromone
A scent emitted by the males of some species of butterflies making him attractive to females.

Proboscis
The straw-like apparatus located on a butterfly’s head which is used for feeding (the intake of liquids). When not in use, it is coiled up under the butterfly’s head.

Prolegs
The five pair of leg-like appendages on the abdomen of a caterpillar’s body.

Pupa (singular)
Pupae (plural)
Chrysalis. The third stage in the life cycle of a butterfly. The stage in which a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly.

Pupate
The shedding of skin which occurs as a caterpillar (larva) becomes a pupa (chrysalis).

Spinneret
The organ located on the head of a caterpillar which is used for creating silk-like threads.

Spiracles
The small openings on the skin of insects through which they breathe.

Thorax
The middle portion of a butterfly’s body. Composed of three segments, the butterfly’s two pair of wings and three pair of legs are attached to the thorax.

 

Photos   (high resolution, copyrighted, photos available upon request)
Black Swallowtail catepillar, larvae, on Rue Black Swallowtail butterfly Comma butterfly
Common Buckeye butterfly Cabbage White butterfly Giant Swallowtail eggs
Monarch caterpillar, larva Giant Swallowtail butterfly Giant Swallowtail larva, caterpillar
Zebra Swallowtail butterfly Zebra Swallowtail butterfly, underside Painted Lady butterfly, underside
Monarch butterfly laying an egg on Tropical Milkweed, Asclepisa curassavica Monarch chrysalis, pupa Red-Spotted Purple butterfly, underside

Rose Franklin's Perennials
107 Butterfly Lane      Spring Mills, PA  16875

(814) 422-8968        Email:  RoseFranklin@aol.com

During our busy shipping season (May 1 thru September 30), please email, don't call.

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