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A Scientist's Perspective
Dr. Chip Taylor's Reflections About Spring 2013 Migration

As we all know from childhood and "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," sometimes it's too hot (as in the spring and later the summer of 2012), sometimes too cold (this spring) and sometimes just right. Both of the last two starts to the monarch season represent the hot-cold extremes over the last 21 seasons.

I monitor the bloom of the hundreds of crab apple trees on the University of Kansas campus each spring, a habit from all those years during which my focus was primarily on honey bees, and peak bloom usually occurs on the 14th of April. The peak bloom varies a bit from year to year but usually only by a few days.

Last year—the warmest March on record in the continental United States—the peak was reached on the 22nd of March and monarchs were reported in Kansas in late March (21-30). Until last year the earliest peak was 4 April in 2007. That year early onset of bloom was followed by a horrendous freeze.

I drove through campus today (28 April) to check the bloom and this is the day of the peak for this year - a full thirteen days later than average and 35 days later than last year. No monarchs have been reported to Journey North for Kansas so far this year. Monarchs are usually seen in the vicinity of Wichita around the 7th of April and, in more years than not, we see a monarch or two here in Lawrence between the 14th and 21st of April. If I recall the Journey North's records correctly, this is the first year that no monarchs have been reported reaching Kansas by 27 April.

So, what does this mean for monarchs? It's likely this will mean late arrivals in the northern breeding areas and late arrivals are associated with low overwintering numbers in Mexico the following winter. Let's hope the weather returns to normal soon.

Monarch butterfly in Tamaulipas

Dr. Chip Taylor
University of Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas

 

This is the first year that no monarchs have been reported reaching Kansas by 27 April.

 

Late arrivals in the northern breeding areas are associated with low overwintering numbers in Mexico the following winter.

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