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Charlotte, VT, United States

Howard E.,Journey North | Davis A.K.,University of Georgia
Annals of the Entomological Society of America | Year: 2015

Declines in overwintering colonies of monarch butterflies (Danaus plexxipus) in Mexico raise questions about other life cycle phases, such as spring migration, where monarchs recolonize their breeding range in the United States and Canada with sequential generations. We used data from a long-term citizen science program, "Journey North" (now with 18 yr), to identify possible changes to the recolonization. This program asks people to report the date and location when they see the first adult monarch annually, and this database now contains >11,000 records. We examined sighting dates and migration range size, the latter based on the number of 2-degree latitude - longitude grid squares with monarch sightings, to look for evidence of change in either of these two parameters over the 18 yr. Our analyses used regression models that accounted for increasing volunteer participation over the years. We found monarchs are being sighted later at a rate of 1 d later every 4 yr. This does not appear to be related to later emergence of milkweed, based on examination of milkweed reports. Later sightings could be interpreted as a sign of reductions in monarch abundance (it takes longer to see the first monarch of the year). We also found a potential decline in the geographic range of the initial spring migration wave (a decline of 9% over 18 yr). However we detected no change in the continental area encompassed at the end of recolonization, indicating monarchs are still successfully filling their traditional breeding range in eastern North America. © The Authors 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Entomological Society of America. Source

Howard E.,Journey North | Davis A.K.,University of Georgia
Psyche | Year: 2010

Members of the public have long had a fascination with the monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, because of its amazing long-distance migration to overwintering sites in central Mexico, and many participate in online citizen-science programs where they report observations of its life history in North America. Here, we examine a little-studied aspect of monarch biology, the degree of overwintering in the southern United States. We compiled 9 years of sightings of overwintering monarchs in the southern United States that were reported to Journey North, a web-based citizen science program, to map the distribution of areas where monarchs are capable of surviving during the winter (i.e., in January and February), differentiating between adult sightings and sightings of breeding activity. We also statistically compared the latitudes of adult and breeding sightings, examined differences across years in latitude of sightings, and quantified the number of monarchs reported with each sighting. Of all 254 sightings, 80 came from Florida and Texas, with the remainder coming from South Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, and even one in Virginia. This distribution was generally consistent with the winter range predicted by prior investigators based on climatic conditions of this region. Sightings of adults were on average from higher latitudes than reports of breeding activity and there was significant variation across years in the average latitude of all sightings. The majority of sightings (94.2) were of fewer than 10 adult monarchs per location, and there were no reports of clustering behavior that is typical of monarch overwintering in California and Mexico. The results of this investigation broaden our collective understanding of this stage of the monarch life cycle and, more generally, highlight the value of citizen science programs in advancing science. © 2010 Elizabeth Howard et al. Source

Davis A.K.,University of Georgia | Nibbelink N.P.,University of Georgia | Howard E.,Journey North
International Journal of Zoology | Year: 2012

Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) in eastern North America must make frequent stops to rest and refuel during their annual migration. During these stopovers, monarchs form communal roosts, which are often observed by laypersons. Journey North is a citizen science program that compiles roost observations, and we examined these data in an attempt to identify habitat characteristics of roosts. From each observation we extracted information on the type of vegetation used, and we used GIS and a national landcover data set to determine land cover characteristics within a 10km radius of the roost. Ninety-seven percent of roosts were reported on trees; most were in pines and conifers, maples, oaks, pecans and willows. Conifers and maples were used most often in northern flyway regions, while pecans and oaks were more-frequently used in southern regions. No one landcover type was directly associated with roost sites, although there was more open water near roost sites than around random sites. Roosts in southern Texas were associated primarily with grasslands, but this was not the case elsewhere. Considering the large variety of tree types used and the diversity of landcover types around roost sites, monarchs appear highly-adaptable in terms of roost site selection. © 2012 Andrew K. Davis et al. Source

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