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  • Andy Davis

What to do about monarchs and their parasites in Florida - a zoom conversation with Miami Zoo expert

Hello blog readers!

Welcome to another edition of the MonarchScience blog - For longtime readers, I hope this site has been useful to you so far. For first time readers, welcome.

To set the stage for today - In my last blog article, I recapped a study that seems to have set the monarch world on fire, and well it should. The study was about the dramatic rise in the OE parasite that affects monarchs and their butterfly relatives. In a nutshell, I was part of a team of experts who described an amazing 50-year dataset of OE prevalence within monarchs in North America, and this dataset shows that prevalence was historically below 1%, but in the last 15-20 years, it has jumped to 10-15% during the summer. And, we also showed that this rise results in the loss of tens of millions of monarchs during the fall migration, which leads to smaller than normal winter colonies.

If that blog opened your eyes to the growing danger of OE to monarchs in North America, then good. For many years, I think people (even scientists) had dismissed this parasite as a minor threat to monarchs, perhaps because it was historically always at a low prevalence. But now, with so many anthropogenic activities going on that seem to enhance the OE spread, this is now a serious problem for monarchs.

So... speaking of OE problems, today's blog post is about monarchs in Florida, where the prevalence of OE is now nearly 100%! Note that I said "now" here. This wasn't always the case.

After the previous OE blog was published, I was contacted by a representative from the Miami Zoo - Tiffany Moore - who is the zoo's butterfly specialist, and who is involved with all things conservation. Here is a short article about her and her role at the zoo. Anyway, she asked if I could help provide some answers to some of the common questions she gets asked about monarchs in Florida, especially in regards to the OE issue down there. After a couple of emails we ended up on a zoom call, which she and I recorded, below. I figured that since there are so many people in Florida who care about monarchs, and, since there is actually a lot of misinformation out there about Florida's monarchs, that it would be good for others to see this conversation. And, she tells me that she could also use this material to provide to homeowners in Florida.

In this conversation we touch on a variety of topics, including the historical research on Florida's monarchs, in which I describe some very interesting observations from the 1950s by Lincoln Brower, regarding the milkweeds he found there. We also talked about how the landscape of Florida has changed for the monarchs since then, and what this has done for the OE parasite. And, I present some current data showing the true status of the Florida monarch population (it's not what you think). Finally, we discuss some pertinent take-home lessons for people in Florida, on ways they can "help" the monarch by reducing the OE prevalence - hint, it's also not what you'd expect to hear.

So, without further ado, here is the full zoom conversation with Tiffany, unedited and unscripted. It's about 30 minutes long, so sit back with a coffee (or glass of wine), and turn on your thinking caps.

I want to thank Tiffany Moore for stimulating this important conversation, and, I want to commend her for her important work. Regarding the OE-monarch issue, she is in a pretty tough position too, because this region of the country seems to be ground-zero for this parasite. I wish this were not the case.

I'll sign off here - thanks for reading (and watching).


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The science of monarch butterflies

A blog about monarchs, written by a monarch scientist, for people who love monarchs

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