Monarch move­ment

Fall but­ter­fly mi­gra­tion flut­ter­ing through Ok­la­homa

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - METRO | STATE - BY ROBERT MED­LEY Staff Writer rmed­ley@ok­la­

The or­ange and black but­ter­flies move quickly, flut­ter­ing around sun­flow­ers in north­west Ok­la­homa City.

There were too many to count in a patch of sun­flow­ers on the last day of Septem­ber.

The mon­archs are in Ok­la­homa in large num­bers on their fall mi­gra­tion to Mex­ico. Their num­bers, which have been dwin­dling in re­cent years, ap­pear to be on an up­swing at sev­eral but­ter­fly gar­dens and way sta­tions.

Ok­la­homa City Zoo spokes­woman Candice Ren­nels said the mon­archs are abun­dant this year around the plants and gar­dens at the zoo.

“Walk­ing around the zoo, it seems there are more mon­archs than there ever have been or that I have seen be­fore,” Ren­nels said.

The zoo staff takes part in tag­ging mon­archs to help na­tion­wide ef­forts to gather data for re­search.

Re­becca Sny­der, the Ok­la­homa City Zoo cu­ra­tor of con­ser­va­tion and science, said the zoo is com­mit­ted to in­creas­ing pub­lic aware­ness about the plight of the mon­archs and other pol­li­na­tors.

Num­bers of pol­li­na­tors have been re­duced in re­cent years by pes­ti­cides and habi­tat loss, she said.

“Pol­li­na­tors are crit­i­cal to agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion and to vi­brant ecosys­tems,” Sny­der said.

Pre­serv­ing habi­tat

From plant­ing more monarch gar­dens to mow­ing less along high­ways, ef­forts to in­crease monarch num­bers have been un­der­way from Min­nesota to Texas for sev­eral years, with states par­tic­i­pat­ing in a monarch high­way pro­gram along In­ter­state 35. In Ok­la­homa, there has been a statewide cut­back in mow­ing since 2016 along high­ways to help mon­archs find more flow­ers and plants to feed on. High num­bers of mon­archs this fall have been re­ported in the Ok­la­homa City area, said Ju­lia Laugh­lin, hor­ti­cul­ture ed­u­ca­tor at the Ok­la­homa State Univer­sity Ok­la­homa County Ex­ten­sion of­fice.

Laugh­lin said there are more than 200 lo­cal gar­den­ers who plant monarch food sources.

As the mon­archs be­gin their fall mi­gra­tion that will pass through Ok­la­homa en route to Mex­ico, food sources are found along road­ways. And there may be plenty of food al­ready.

Mow­ing has been a chal­lenge this year, said state Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment spokes­woman Madi­son Schein. Crews try to keep tall grass at least 15 feet away from the pave­ment. The rainy weather has put all mow­ing plans be­hind sched­ule, Schein said.

There are two monarch way sta­tions that are main­tained by Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment, one on State High­way 51 west of Still­wa­ter and an­other near NE 122 and I-35 in north­east Ok­la­homa City.

“We are con­tin­u­ing to work with the plan to pro­mote pol­li­na­tors and main­tain pub­lic safety,” said Lisa Shearer-Salim, a Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment spokes­woman.

In Still­wa­ter, Kris­ten Baum, bi­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor at Ok­la­homa State Univer­sity, said the monarch mi­gra­tion is well un­der­way, and the num­bers in cen­tral Ok­la­homa will in­crease even more when the cooler winds start com­ing out of the north, and more mon­archs move with the wind on their flight south.

“This is the first year in sev­eral years that the mi­gra­tion seems to be on time; the mi­gra­tion has been late the past sev­eral years,” Baum said. “We have been see­ing steady num­bers of mon­archs since last week, but winds have been con­sis­tently out of the south and we have not seen large num­bers yet.”

At the Myr­iad Botan­i­cal Gar­dens in down­town Ok­la­homa City, large num­bers of mon­archs passed through last fall, Hor­ti­cul­ture Di­rec­tor Nate Tschaenn said. The mi­gra­tion has picked up in re­cent weeks, he said.


Liz Hodg­son, an en­gi­neer­ing in­tern in the pave­ment man­age­ment di­vi­sion at Ok­la­homa Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion, works at a monarch sta­tion gar­den that is main­tained at NE 122 and In­ter­state 35 in north­east Ok­la­homa City. The gar­den grows food sources for the mon­archs.


Max Ro­mais, an en­gi­neer­ing in­tern in the pave­ment man­age­ment di­vi­sion at Ok­la­homa Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion, works plant­ing food sources for mon­archs at a way sta­tion gar­den at NE 122 and In­ter­state 35.

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