Today, we hear from Terry Stanfill, a recent retiree of Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) after 35 years working as a chemist at Flint Creek Power Plant at Gentry, AR. Stanfill continues to over see the power plant’s Eagle Watch Nature Trail that is open to the public. Terry’s exceptional photography of wild flora and fauna have been featured in media resources such as Capture Arkansas and his printed works are on display at the IRWP Watershed Learning Center, located at 221 S. Main St., Cave Springs, AR. We appreciate all Terry does for educating and capturing moments of wild in the watershed, and he even stopped by to visit with summer campers last week during IRWP’s Art & Nature Camp. Students enjoyed his first-hand accounts of the local wildlife and plants featured in his photos. In this edition of UpstreamMatters, Terry brings his expertise about the Monarch Butterfly.
The Monarch butterfly is famous for its incredible migratory journey every fall to the mountains of central Mexico and this phenomenon is not completely understood. The emerging “fall” Monarchs are the ones that make the amazing journey to Mexico. They are different from the other summer broods of Monarchs which mate & lay eggs on a milkweed (Asclepias) species. The summer Monarchs live only a few weeks while the fall Monarchs live up to nine months and do not mate until they return from Mexico in the spring and lay their eggs on any milkweed species they can find. The summer Monarch life cycle completes in about a month and four generations are raised during the summer. The emerging fall Monarchs that make the migratory journey are actually the great-great-grandchildren of the Monarchs that made the migratory journey the previous year.
Monarch development from egg to adult is completed in about 30 days.
As mentioned, the “host” plant for the Monarch is milkweed species. Host plant means the butterfly will only its eggs on and the caterpillars survive only on this species of plant. Different butterflies each has their own host plant which is another amazing fact of the natural world and shows the interdependence the creatures of the natural world have for each other. Arkansas has several species of milkweed. The most common being the orange flowering Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa).
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
There is also a lesser known and threatened milkweed called Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnate). This is a late summer blooming pink milkweed that provides host plant caterpillar food and nectar for the fall emerging Monarchs that will make the migratory journey to Mexico. This plant is ranked as a S2 in Arkansas by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission. The S2 definition is “Imperiled in the state due to very restricted range, very few populations (often 20 or fewer), steep declines, or other factors making it vulnerable to extirpation”. These plants are tracked and inventoried annually by the ANHC.
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnate)
The City Lake property has over 100 Swamp Milkweed plants on the property adjoining the east end of the lake. I’m hoping the City of Siloam Springs will help monitor and protect this population of Swamp Milkweed by adopting a mowing plan that will protect this species through the fall Monarch migration and help increase the population. There are also many other opportunities to enhance the City Lake property for wildlife habitat & involve local schools & conservation organizations & provide public enjoyment.
IRWP is proud to partner with Fayetteville Monarch Project and Monarchs for Springdale, initiatives for saving and improving Monarch Butterfly habitats.
Upcoming opportunities to learn more about native plants for pollinators and purchase native plants include the August 12 workshop, Native Plant Workshop and Plant Sale, hosted by Arkansas Master Naturalist and Illinois River Watershed Partnership. To register or find out more, visit www.irwp.org.