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Species Spotlight: Monarch
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Species Spotlight: Monarch

[separator headline="h3" title="Here are some interesting facts about Monarch butterflies!"] [caption id="attachment_1715" align="alignleft" width="300"]Monarch butterfly Monarch butterfly[/caption] Scientific Name:  Danaus plexippus SARA status:  Special Concern; Ontario: Special Concern Taxonomic Group:  Arthropods Size:  wingspan of 8.6-10.5 cm Adult monarch butterflies are orange and black with white spots on the borders of the wings. The caterpillars are black, white and yellow stripped and can be found on milkweed plants. The chrysalis is a distinctive green and gold. Monarchs can sometimes be confused with the similar-looking, but smaller Viceroy, but are easily distinguished by the lack of a black band on the hind wing that runs parallel to the wing edge. During the summer months, you can find adult Monarchs feeding on the nectar of wildflowers, while the caterpillars can be found feeding on milkweed plants. You can encourage monarchs to come to your yard by planting a butterfly garden full of milkweeds and nectar-producing flowers, such as goldenrod, asters and black-eyed Susan. Want to plant your own monarch friendly garden? Check out Nature Canada’s tips here. [caption id="attachment_1716" align="alignright" width="300"]Monarch caterpillar Photo Credit: Shutterstock Monarch caterpillar
Photo Credit: Shutterstock[/caption] Monarchs have been in news lately as record low population numbers have been recorded in Mexico both this winter and during winter 0f 2013-14. It was hoped that during the 2014 summer breeding season, numbers of monarchs would improve. It appears, however, that this year the numbers of adult monarchs overwintering in Mexico are down by 80% compared to the historic average (source: WWF-Mexico). And if this spring is cold like last year's, the spring migration could be delayed and fewer monarch sightings may be reported in their northernmost breeding grounds in Canada. There is fear that this year’s numbers could again be low, leading to an even longer road to recovery for the monarch population. But let's hope that they will make a rebound this coming summer as monarchs, like most insects, can produce large numbers of offspring each year - and you can help them find the habitat they need! On February 9th 2015 the US government announced $3.2 million in funding to help conserve habitat for monarch butterflies throughout their life cycle. This is a significant move by the US since the species is not yet listed under the US Endangered Species Act, despite the fact that the southern US and Texas are home to the first generation of monarchs that must survive to continue migrating north each year. Where Can You See This Species? There are two populations of Monarchs in North America, one to the west of the Rockies and the one to the East. The western population lives as far north as southern British Columbia and overwinters along the California coast. The population east of the Rocky Mountains is the population known for overwintering in the Oyamel Fir forests of Mexico. Monarchs can also be found in Central and South America, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and many other islands in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Monarch are most commonly seen in eastern Canada from late spring to early fall. Did You Know? • Larvae ingest toxins from the milkweed making them poisonous to predators. The toxins stay in the body as the caterpillar pupates and the adult carries the toxins too. • On their migration south, monarchs gather in large numbers along the Canadian shores of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie as they prepare to cross the water. • The overwintering generation is the longest lived of the four or five monarch generations produced each year. These individuals can live about seven or eight months and are the ones that have migrated from their northern breeding grounds to the overwintering grounds in Mexico and they begin the journey north again in the spring. The other generations, living in the spring and summer months, survive for about two months. You can report sightings of this and other rare species to the Canadian Wildlife Service at (819) 997-2800 or by registering for a free account at ebutterfly.ca. A photo and a location are very helpful! This post is an update prepared by Alex MacDonald. Much of the content originally appeared as part of our Species Spotlight series under the NatureHood program, and was written by guest blogger Michelle Locke, then a contract research technician at the Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes. 

***Postponed*** Ottawa children take part in a ‘migration’ parade
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***Postponed*** Ottawa children take part in a ‘migration’ parade

***POSTPONED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE DUE TO SHOOTING ON PARADE ROUTE*** October 22, 2014 (OTTAWA) - Nature Canada would like to invite media to attend a one-of-a-kind parade in the heart of Ottawa today, October 22, 2014. In celebration of Canada’s migratory birds, kindergarten children from Ottawa-area schools will participate in a guided ‘migratory’ walk from Parliament Hill to Ottawa City Hall where they will be welcomed by the Mexican Embassy and Eleanor Fast, Nature Canada’s Executive Director. Just over 200 children carrying colourful masks depicting the vibrant plumage of migratory birds and butterflies will encounter ‘obstacles’ along their walk, such as windy weather, that will raise awareness of the challenges facing migratory birds as they make their perilous journey to wintering grounds in the southern hemisphere. The Mexican Embassy will be providing refreshments at the end of the ‘migratory journey’ and there will be a brief presentation about the shared interest Canada and Mexico have in protecting migratory birds. The parade will begin at the Metcalfe Street entrance of Parliament Hill at 11:00am and will end at 12:25pm in front of Ottawa City Hall. If you are interested in attending and photographing or filming the event, please contact Nature Canada. Although it is a public event, some parents have requested that their child not be photographed or filmed and we would like to do our best to honour their wishes. -30- [one_third][separator headline="h2" title="Media Contacts:"] Paul Jorgenson Senior Communications Manager 613-562-3447 ext 248 pjorgenson@naturecanada.ca Monica Tanaka Communications Coordinator 613-562-3447 ext 241 mtanaka@naturecanada.ca [/one_third] [one_third][separator headline="h2" title="About Nature Canada"] Nature Canada is the oldest national nature conservation charity in Canada. Over the past 75 years, we’ve helped protect over 63 million acres of parks and wildlife areas in Canada and the countless species that depend on this habitat. Today, we represent a network of over 45,000 members & supporters and more than 350 nature organizations in every province across Canada.[/one_third] [one_third_last][separator headline="h2" title="Parade route"] parade route [/one_third_last]

Species Spotlight: West Virginia White
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Species Spotlight: West Virginia White

Get to know some of the species at risk in the Lac Deschênes IBA with the Species Spotlight, aka “Sp-Spot”. Today meet the: West Virginia White West Virginia WhiteScientific Name: Pieris virginiensis SARA status: Special concern Taxonomic Group: Anthropods Size: 3-5 cm wingspan The West Virginia White is a small white butterfly with wings that are translucent on the underside. Its veins have grey-brown scaling, causing it to look like a lace pattern. As a caterpillar, it is yellow-green with a green stripe along each side. Adults feed on flower nectar of toothworts, spring beauty, violets, and other plants. The larvae feed only on the leaves of toothwort, a small, spring-blooming plant of the forest floor. Currently, there are couple threats to the West Virginia White such as forest fragmentation and invasive species, such as the garlic mustard. The butterfly is restricted to rich, moist deciduous woods. Since it refuses to cross open areas its sensitivity to forest fragmentation is the largest threat to this butterfly’s survival. Where Else Can You See This Species? This butterfly has a very limited North America range. In Canada, it can be found in localized colonies in southern and eastern Ontario, as far north as Manitoulin Island, Batchawana Bay north of Sault Ste.Marie and Sharbot Lake north of Kingston. There are also records of this butterfly in the Montreal area. The largest populations are in the western Lake Ontario region. Did You Know? • The West Virgina White butterfly is 2-3 times more likely to lay their eggs on garlic mustard over a native host plant. This is unfortunate as the hatched larvae will not survive on this invasive species. Check back every week to read about a different species at risk that can be found in Lac Deschênes. You can report sightings of this and other rare species to the Canadian Wildlife Service at (819) 997-2800 or on the MNR Natural Heritage Information Centre website. A photo and a location are very helpful!

this initiative is funded by

We would like to thank our guest blogger Kelsey Ha for this post. Kelsey is a high school student volunteer at Nature Canada and is interested in biology and environmental sciences.

Protect Monarch Butterflies: What Can You Do In Your Naturehood?
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Protect Monarch Butterflies: What Can You Do In Your Naturehood?

Recent research on Monarch Butterflies shows a sharp decline in its numbers since monitoring began nearly 20 years ago. Part of the problem lies in the parallel decline of milkweed – a plant that Monarchs rely on for food and protection. Milkweed, often eradicated through the use of pesticides, is vital to the Monarch’s ability to survive and reproduce. Here are 3 things you can do in your own yard, terrace, community garden or other green space to be a good neighbour in your NatureHood!

  1. Plant native species—they have adapted to your local soil and climate conditions so they don’t need watering or fertilizers (or pesticides!) to thrive.
  2. Include plants the butterfly will need at all four stages of its life cycle. Milkweed for the egg and larvae stage, and then any nectar-producing flower will do. Favourite flowers are mainly from the asteraceae, or sunflower and daisy, family of plants.
  3. Go for colour! In general, butterflies prefer yellow, pink, orange and purple flowers.
[separator headline="h2" title="Start your monarch garden today"] Milkweed is a perennial and once planted will brighten up your garden for many years. Only large insects, such as butterflies, moths and bumblebees, can successfully pollinate milkweeds. In nature, seeds are dispersed by the wind in the fall, but you can also collect them in the early fall and sew them yourself in late fall. Here's a list of some commonly available milkweed species: Common milkweed - Asclepias syriaca (bloom time: June to early August) Swamp milkweed - Asclepias incarnata (bloom time: June to September) Butterfly milkweed - Asclepias tuberosa (bloom time: June to September) Poke milkweed - Asclepias exaltata (bloom time: June to early August) The availability of adequate nectar resources is an absolute must for monarch habitat. The fuel monarchs require for their long migration south is obtained exclusively from fall wildflowers. The wildflowers in the following section are commonly preferred plant species for adult monarchs and are also favourite garden plants. Many of the species complement each other, for example wild bergamot, New England aster, and black-eyed Susan. Here's a list of suggestions: Canada goldenrod - Solidago canadensis (bloom time: May to September) New England aster - Aster novae-angliae (bloom time: August to October) Wild bergamot - Monarda fistulosa, also known as horsemint, bee balm (bloom time: July to August) Black-eyed Susan - Rudbeckia hirta (bloom time: June to September) While you're out in your yard, why not use our NEW NatureHood app to record any wildlife sightings. Every submission adds to our understanding of local wildlife and habitat, plus our app also let's you see what other people in your neighbourhood have discovered!  

7 ways to help infographic
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7 ways to help infographic

Tweet and share this infographic with your neighbours in the NatureHood   Be a good neighbour in the NatureHood - 7 Ways to Help Species At Risk

Give Nature a Break!
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Give Nature a Break!

iStock_monarch2
Sometimes, nature needs to be left alone in order to thrive and do its job well.
That's the message Carla Sbert, Nature Canada's manager of conservation programs and legal issues, shared with CBC Radio One's Ottawa morning show listeners on behalf of everyone who feels nature deserves a break.
Inspired by her daily commute to our office in downtown Ottawa, Carla asked the National Capital Commission to help Monarch butterflies by leaving fields standing through the summer. Here's Carla's story, which was read by the show's co-host, Stu:
I have been cycling to work from Gatineau to downtown Ottawa through Leamy Lake Park  for five years. Every summer I am pained to see beautiful fields along the bike path razed down in the middle of summer. This year that happened last week and early this week, even before Canada goldenrods started blooming and just a couple of weeks after the first milkweed did. This is so unnecessary. These fields are important for declining pollinators and birds, like bees, swallows and other insect eating birds and bats. They are important for monarch butterflies, too. I hope you’ve heard about the latest research showing the importance of milkweed for monarch butterflies and the role of milkweed loss in their decline. Please give nature a break and leave fields standing through the summer.
If there's a natural space where you live that needs a break, share your story with us. Tell us what inspired you to protect it and what can be done to ensure it gets a break in the comments section below. And don't forget to advocate for this natural space just like Carla did!

Warming Up for Spring: Two Species of Butterfly Find Their Wings
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Warming Up for Spring: Two Species of Butterfly Find Their Wings

From our friends, the outdooredguys, comes a blog post about two butterfly species, the Eastern Comma and the Mourning Cloak, and how they literally "warm up" for spring. Based in the Waterloo/Cambridge Ontario area, the outdooredguys teach kids from grades 1 to 12 about nature at 4 day-use Outdoor and Environmental Education Centres. This post by Al takes a look at the fascinating life-cycle of two species of butterfly:
"... I went to the south-facing slopes to find two species of butterfly – the Eastern Comma and the Mourning Cloak. These two species overwinter as adults, spending several months tucked away in hollow logs, underneath loose bark, or finding spaces between tree roots. As spring arrives and the snow melts they emerge from winter hibernation and begin to feed. These are not nectar-feeders because few flowers are blooming at this time. Instead, they feed on sap to get their energy and mud or animal droppings to gain valuable minerals ..."
Read the entire post here

New Discovery Made about Monarch Butterfly’s Incredible Journey
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New Discovery Made about Monarch Butterfly’s Incredible Journey

The Monarch Butterfly is one the most cherished and widely recognized insect species in the world. Its Latin name, Danaus plexippus, is inspired by the Greek myth of Danaus, king of Libya, in which Danaus and his fifty daughters (Danaides) fled to Greece to avoid marrying their cousins. The long, migratory journey of the Monarch butterfly is reminiscent of the daughters' flight. The Aztecs also believed that the adult Monarch butterflies were incarnations of their fallen warriors, as the monarchs portrayed the colors of their battles. Researchers from the University of Guelph and Environment Canada have made a significant new discovery about “nature’s royalty” and their mysterious migration. They recently learned that some Monarch Butterflies produce offspring that don’t simply travel the thousands of kilometres each year between the Great Lakes Region and Mexico. At least some head east across the Appalachian Mountains en route to the eastern seaboard. According to Ryan Norris, professor of integrative biology at the University of Guelph and author of the study, “this explains why monarchs always appear later on the east coast than the interior.” He also noted that the butterflies who follow this migratory pattern have wider wingspans than others monarchs by a few centimetres. These findings were published in the journal, Biology Letters. As the weather chills, the monarchs will begin their annual migration south to California and Mexico, a journey that represents up to 4,828 kilometres. When springtime arrives the monarchs will head back up north, and lay eggs along the way. But now we know that for some, the journey back will be a more difficult feat as they will have to pass through the treacherous mountains ranges of the Appalachians. Under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) the Monarch Butterfly is listed as a species of “special concern”. This type of designation only requires that a management plan be prepared but it does not offer the Monarch adequate protection against its destruction, harassment, capture or the destruction of its habitat. In other words, I am saddened to say that no legal repercussions will come to you if you kill or hurt a Monarch Butterfly. Fortunately, Canada and Mexico signed a declaration creating the International Network of Monarch Butterfly Reserves. Three areas along the north shore of lakes Ontario and Erie have been designated as reserves—Long Point National Wildlife Area, Point Pelee National Park, and the Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area. You can attract these beautiful creatures to your backyard while protecting local ecosystems and encouraging biodiversity by planting a Monarch-Friendly Garden.

List of Endangered Species Grows in Canada
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List of Endangered Species Grows in Canada

Last week the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) met to assess the status of wildlife species in Canada believed to be at risk of extinction. COSEWIC is the independent scientific advisory body that assesses the status of species under the federal Species at Risk Act.

COSEWIC summarized the results of the meeting as "From Abalone to Whales: Aquatic Species in Canada Face Risk of Extinction." Indeed, the message is clear, and quite grim, for two marine species, the American Plaice and the Northern Abalone.

Both species have undergone precipitous declines, with American Plaice suffering declines of 90% in some areas of Canada's east coast, and Northern Abalone still declining in British Columbia due to poaching. These declines have continued despite a 20 year moratorium on abalone harvesting and a long-standing plaice moratorium in some fishery areas.


The American Plaice is a flatfish, which, as a juvenile looks like a conventional fish, but as it develops into adulthood, its left eye migrates from the left side of its head to the right side, and from that point onward swims on its side.


The Northern Abalone is marine snail with a flat, oval-shaped shell mottled reddish or greenish, with areas of white or blue. It was the first marine invertebrate to be designated at risk by COSEWIC, in 1999.

The assessment meeting also brought some good news for a marine species - the status of Bowhead Whales in Canada's eastern Arctic has been upgraded to special concern from the previous status of threatened. Hundreds of years of commercial whaling had depleted Bowhead Whale populations but recent decades of conservation have resulted in increased numbers. However, COSEWIC notes, "Although the increased abundance is encouraging, the species faces an uncertain future in a rapidly changing Arctic climate."


Two Canadian bird species were also assessed as at-risk for the first time, Whip-poor-will and Horned Grebe (below). Whip-poor-wills are found across much of Canada, but, like many other aerial insectivorous bird species, habitat loss and degradation as well as changes to the insect prey base may be affecting their population.

Abundance indices indicate that Whip-poor-wills have declined by more than 30% over the past 10 years (3 generations), leading COSEWIC to assess them as threatened. Horned Grebes found west of Quebec were assessed as special concern. Canada has approximately 92% of the North American breeding range of this species, and long-term and short-term population declines have resulted from threats like degradation of wetland breeding habitat and pressure on their wintering habitats. Horned Grebes found in the Magdalen Islands were assessed as endangered. Their very small population size (average of 15 adult birds) makes them particularly vulnerable.

The Horned Grebe wasn't the only wetland species assessed as at risk. Northern Leopard Frogs (below), once ubiquitous wetland residents in many parts of Canada, were determined to be endangered in British Columbia (where they are now only found in a single population in the Creston Valley). The western boreal and prairie populations were assessed as special concern. The Maritime Ringlet, a specialist butterfly found only in Canada, and only in 10 coastal salt marshes in New Brunswick and the Gaspé Peninsula, was classified as endangered.

There are now 585 wildlife species in various COSEWIC risk categories, including 244 endangered, 145 threatened, 160 special concern, and 23 extirpated wildlife species. In addition, 13 are extinct and 45 are data deficient.



As always, Nature Canada will keep tabs on these assessments to make sure that the species receive timely listing under the Species at Risk Act, so that they and their habitats are protected.



photo: Elena Kreuzbert (frog), Vladamir Morozov (grebe)

Nature Photo of the Month – Monarch Butterfly…Almost
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Nature Photo of the Month – Monarch Butterfly…Almost

Our photo of the month this September is quite revealing! Take a close look and you'll see one of nature's wonders -- it'll be a transformative experience.
Beatrice Laporte, this month's photographer from Merrickville Ontario, says:
I found this Monarch butterfly chrysalis on a Witch Hazel bush in Charleston Lake Provincial Park [near Lansdowne Ontario] in August 2008. We can actually see the wings of the Monarch butterfly developing inside the chrysalis, soon to emerge from its resting stage between the larva and adult stage, undergoing a complete metamorphosis, just in time for the long flight south.
The monarch butterfly is also known as the “milkweed butterfly” because milkweed is the only plant monarch larvae can eat. The female butterfly lays about 400 little yellow eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves. Once the larvae or caterpillars hatch they begin an eating frenzy, consuming the plant’s leaves, flowers and sometimes seed pods. The larvae have yellow, black and off-white rings. The insect completes all of its growing in this stage, which takes nine to 14 days under normal summer temperatures. Once grown the larvae attach themselves to a handy twig. Hanging upside down by their tail they shed their outer skin and transform into a pupa or chrysalis in a matter of hours. The pupa resembles a waxy, jade-coloured vase adorned with golden spots. After about two weeks the adult butterfly emerges and takes a couple of hours to dry its wings before taking its first flight. The adult male monarch is bright orange with a black pheromone scent patch in the middle of the hind wing. The female is dull orange or brown with more noticeable scaled black veins. Adults subsist largely on nectar produced from fall wildflowers.
In Canada there are two distinct populations of monarchs: a large, widely distributed eastern population found east of the Rockies, and a second smaller western population found only in central British Columbia. The breeding range in Canada closely reflects the distribution of milkweed species.

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