First Manitoulin Island monarch butterfly count leads to tweaks

MANITOULIN – The first trans-Manitoulin monarch butterfly count got a bit of a rainy day start, leading to fewer participants than originally hoped, but all is not lost as the day did result in some useful data and the experience has informed some planned changes to the count going forward.

The totals from this year’s count included 21 searchers counting at 26 locations or routes for a total of 16.4 person-hours. Over the course of the count, 389 adults, 280 larvae, 66 eggs and 12 chrysalises were recorded and over 6,000 milkweed plants were checked. 

The Manitoulin monarch count results came in from all over the Island, including Wiikwemkoong, Kaboni, Prairie Point, Big Lake, Providence Bay, Sheguiandah, Evansville, South Baymouth, Maple Point, Gordon and Assiginack Townships, as well as many other locations.

According to organizers, everyone participating remarked how interesting it was to see the different life forms and to discover so many monarchs in our midst.

While organizers caution that the event does not come close to counting much of the total Manitoulin Island population of monarchs, they also point out that these same locations and routes can be counted again in future years for the same length of field time, providing statistics that can be compared from year to year.

“Next year, we’ll make it for longer than 24 hours and will provide a rain date.  We’ll also do better on publicity,” said Judith Jones, project biologist for the Wiikwemkoong Species at Risk Program as she acknowledged there was a bit of a learning curve with setting up the count. “Despite the glitches, Wiikwemkoong is pleased with the results of the event and the data gathered.”

According to the count organizers, the best way to help the monarchs in our area is to make sure their food source, common milkweed, does not get trampled or mowed down. If monarchs are present, it is best to make sure no one steps on the plants or drives over them.

Monarchs are now into their final generation of the season, note the organizers. The adults that are hatching now will be the ones to migrate to Mexico. Starting next week and through early September, flocks of monarchs will be staging along the Lake Huron shore before attempting the crossing of the big water. 

Stay tuned for a stunning vista, as it will be possible to see dozens of adults hanging onto bushes and plants along the shore—a truly beautiful sight. 

The Manitoulin Expositor joins with the Monarch Butterfly Count organizers and their volunteers in wishing bon voyage to our monarch visitors and we hope to see them returning in even more robust numbers next summer.