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October 2016 Newsletter


Most of you know that the monarch migration to Mexico has begun. It was first observed in the northern regions of the breeding areas around late August. I reported the observations on our FB page from news from Journey North, which tracks the monarch's migration. As I hope you know by now, the monarchs will start showing up in Michoacan, Mexico around the time of the Mexican holiday, the Day of the Dead, November 2.

Unfortunately, this year's breeding season is destined to produce a much smaller overwintering population in Mexico than last year due to an extreme weather event in Mexico just before the monarchs departed in March. Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch believes that we will have a population in Mexico of about 1 hectare, similar to the population in 2014-15. But have heart: since each female monarch can lay 400-600 eggs and since there are 3-5 generations each year, the monarch has the capacity to bounce back. What it takes is good weather in the wintering and breeding areas and more milkweed. That's why we need more Monarch Waystations and need to support federal efforts to plant milkweed throughout the Central Flyway.


We had a great set of programs for the public from September 3 - 17, which was the period of the peak migration through our region. We know this from the Monarch Watch table at http://www.monarchwatch.org/tagmig/peak.html. We kicked off the programs with a well-attended Monarch Lego Robotic exhibit at Discovery Station on September 3, and ended with a monarch tagging demonstration at Fall Fest at Hager House on September 17 and a milkweed and perennial plant sale at Sunny Meadows Garden left. In between, we had field tagging events at NCTC and the Antietam National Battlefield, three tagging demonstrations at the Kiwanis Park Monarch Waystation, tagging at Discovery Station (we set up a cage there), and a children's school assembly program at North Jefferson Elementary School.

The Herald Mail covered many of our events and we were able to spread the word about the monarch across our region. During this period and afterwards, I received a number of emails asking if we had extra tags to give away to people that decided to raise and tag monarchs they found in their gardens.

Monarch Discovery Days pretty much brings to an end for our public activities for the year. We will continue to monitor the migration and we will continue our public speaking engagements and waystation advocacy over the fall and winter months. You can keep abreast of the progress of the migration and our activities by following TMA on Facebook, at https://www.facebook.com/theMonarchAlliance/?ref=br_rs.


       JUNIOR MONARCH ALLIANCE (JMA). I am very proud to begin this new initiative. Jim Jenkins of Harpers Ferry, the newest member of the TMA Coordinating Committee, has returned to teaching in Jefferson County. His new school, North Jefferson Elementary, invited me to talk about monarchs to a school assembly, after which, we discussed the idea of establishing a Junior Monarch Alliance. We are still fleshing this out with the idea that we would have a similar program at Discovery Station in Washington County.

       2017 PLANT SALES. On September 17, we held a milkweed and perennial plant sale at Sunny Meadows Garden left in Sharpsburg, MD. Sunny Meadows sold about 750 plants from the TMA plant list, plus additional sales from the plant list before and after September 17. We are now planning for next year. We will hold a milkweed sale and monarch educational program at the Kiwanis Park Monarch Waystation sometime after mid-May. We may follow this with another perennial plant sale from the TMA plant list the following week at Sunny Meadows. We will use the plant sales as a fund raiser for TMA activities and as a way to educate more people about the monarch.

       LESSONS LEARNED FROM 2016. We have had very good start in building a monarch program in our region. Most of the things we tried this year have worked out pretty well. Here are a few thoughts about what we might add next year:

o   Our tagging events were very successful and have brought out members of the public that want to tag their own monarchs. Next year we should increase the number of tagging events, maybe starting a week earlier, and also buy extra tags to give away to people that want to tag monarchs.

o   We need a workshop on raising monarchs. I have been in touch with an elementary school student who raised monarchs this year and is willing to teach a workshop to children. The venue will probably be Discovery Station. We need to think about whether to offer an adult program.

o   Monarch researchers are very dependent on citizen science programs to provide data that helps them understand the population dynamics of the monarch butterfly. Tagging is one citizen science program. There are others as well, and I am hoping we can add at least one new citizen science activity, possibly starting with the JMA.

o   We have, to the extent of our resources, been able to provide service organizations, social organizations, schools, etc, with advice on planting Monarch Waystations. Currently, we rely on pro bono assistance from James Dillon, the owner of Native Havens, who has done a great job. But I believe demand will soon outrun supply. To meet the challenge, our partner, the Washington County Master Gardeners, has offered to help. They will offer advisory services on waystation planning to governmental and non-governmental organizations that are willing to open their waystation to members of the public.

       "TMA Business Members": In recognition of the services provided by James Dillon of Native Havens, and by Sunny Meadows Garden left, we will be creating a new category of membership, "Business Members". It will be offered to businesses that support our programs through their pro bono work on behalf of monarchs, who give discounts to our members for plants, or who provide us with other means of support. This will only be offered to businesses that meet our high standards of quality and are compatible with our programs.

I want to end with a plea to all members: we need to make the TMA a permanent, self-sustaining organization. This means having leadership succession plans and a group of volunteers to help with our programs.

We are always looking for members with an interest who want to participate in the planning and conduct of our activities.

If you want to become more involved, or become a member of our virtual advisory board, the TMA Coordinating Committee, please let me know and we can discuss your interest.

Best regards,

Sandy Sagalkin