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Archive for August, 2016

Monarch Mission on Mount Royal

Over the last 20 years, monarch butterfly populations in Canada have declined by 90%. In fact, the species is considered of “special concern” by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

To assist in protecting the monarch and developing a national conservation plan for this species, the Montreal Insectarium and several Canadian universities have launched the “Monarch Mission,” which invites the public to take part in an inventory of monarch eggs and caterpillars on their host plant, the milkweed.

One group taking part in this initiative is Les Amis de la Montagne’s conservation team in Mount Royal Park. Each week, the team has been collecting information and reporting its observations to the Insectarium through the website dedicated to this project: www.mission-monarch.org

And this Saturday, August 20, Les Amis de la Montagne is inviting the public to join them on Mount Royal for a blitz census of the monarch butterfly population. So far, about 30 people have registered to take part.

“We’ve identified six sectors on Mount Royal where there are large concentrations of milkweed. We’ll divide into teams, and in this way cover the whole park,” explains Julie Faucher Delisle, Conservation Agent with Les amis de la montagne. To date, she said, they haven’t spotted any monarch butterflies, but they’ll be on the look-out for the eggs and first-stage caterpillars. “It’s also possible we won’t find any. But that’s important information too.”

Why the decline?

There are many reasons for the decline in the monarch population. These include deforestation and urbanization, as well as systemic pesticide use. (See more on COSEWIC’s species profile page for the Monarch.)

Another issue, however, is invasive plant species. Delisle explains that monarchs lay their eggs on a very specific host plant, the milkweed. Sometimes, however, monarchs are attracted to another plant from the same family, commonly known as dog-strangling vine. Yet while the survival rate for caterpillar eggs on milkweed is very high, on dog-strangling vine, it is very low. So the conservation team is also working to identify and remove dog-strangling vine throughout Mount Royal park.

How does the census help?

The information collected throughout the summer will be used to help protect the monarchs. “If we know they’re concentrated in a specific area of Montreal, then we know that may be an ecosystem to protect,” Delisle explains. “This could mean, for example, not mowing a lot that contains a large concentration of milkweed plants and is known as a reproduction site for monarchs.” Since the census is a Canada-wide project, it will hopefully lead to improved protection nation-wide.

If you can’t make it to the mountain this Saturday, there are still many opportunities to help out. While no more “blitzes” are planned for the summer, every Saturday morning the public is welcome to come participate in Les Amis de la Montagne’s Environmental Stewardship Program. No registration necessary: just present yourself at the Smith House (1260 Remembrance Road on Mount Royal) at 10 a.m.

More info:

Les amis de la montagne: www.lemontroyal.qc.ca

Learn all about monarchs and/or the Monarch Mission: www.mission-monarch.org

COSEWIC: www.cosewic.gc.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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