Tuesday, September 5, 2017

News Release


New Book Ready for the Monarch Butterfly Migration

“A favorite scenic road of the eastern United States, endless gorgeous views, and one of the most amazing migratory creatures in the world—all make for an ideal fall day outdoors. This guide will help you make the most of your day, with tips on when and where to look, facts and photos of the monarch life cycle, information about learning more, and practical ideas on how you can help the monarch butterfly population grow.”

So says the back cover of the newly released book, A Pictorial Guide to the Monarch Butterfly Migration over the Southernmost Blue Ridge Parkway by local hobby beekeeper and entomologist, Mickey Hunt.

This small book—a mere 37 pages—is timely because the monarch’s southward migration to Mexico is poised to begin, peaking in the Balsam Range south of Asheville toward the end of September. Biologists and amateur monarch watchers all over the country are wondering if the numbers of the butterflies overwintering in Mexico’s Trans-Volcanic Mountains this coming season will be larger or smaller than last winter.

“The known high point of the total monarch population in about a dozen sites in Mexico was the winter of 1996-1997,” said Hunt. “The butterflies covered 18.19 hectares. It’s been down and up since then, but with a downward trend toward the lowest point in the winter of 2013-2014 at .67 hectares. That’s a huge decline, and it alarmed a lot of people.”

One hectare is 2.47 acres. According to the World Wildlife Fund, whose volunteers do the estimating in the mountainous monarch wintering areas, the hectares occupied by the butterflies increased to 4.01 from that lowest point and then dropped to 2.91 last winter.

“But everyone who is paying attention is optimistic,” said Hunt. “We believe our conservation efforts are making a difference. I’ve seen monarch larvae in my milkweed garden all summer long and I’ve raised some of them in my bay window. It’s been a joy seeing the released males patrolling for girlfriends to create another generation.”

Hunt’s monarch migration guide contains dozens of his often close-up photographs of the varied stages of the monarch life cycle, a bar graph showing the monarch population changes, and a migration route map, as well as information about where to buy milkweed seeds and plants, the exclusive food for monarch larvae in North America. There is a section on where to learn more, including some of the best organizations that focus on education and conservation, and monarch educational events in western North Carolina.

One of those events is the Cradle of Forestry’s “Bring Back the Monarchs” program on Sunday, September 17.  Another is the North Carolina Arboretum’s annual Monarch Day, to be held this year on Saturday, September 23.

“I’ve been invited to be a part of the Monarch Day,” said Hunt. “No one really needs this little book, but it might be helpful in giving the wider ecological context. It’s great for younger students. In a nutshell, I’ll just tell people at the arboretum to drive up to Cherry Cove View or the Caney Fork Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway as quick as they can. Watching the migrating monarchs is an amazing aesthetic experience. It’s a window to a natural, global force expressed by a small and beautiful creature. It’s possible to understand an issue in the abstract, but actually seeing the monarchs gliding overhead, or clustering on goldenrod and aster is what shows you their value.”

A Pictorial Guide to the Monarch Butterfly Migration over the Southernmost Blue Ridge Parkway is available now on Amazon.com and Create Space, and will soon be in some of the independent bookstores and garden centers in the Asheville area.

Mickey Hunt has been exploring along the southern Blue Ridge Parkway with his family for 30+ years. He lives in east Asheville. His book website is www.chaoticterrain.com and his blog, www.chaoticterrainpress.blogspot.com.

Contact Hunt:

Image © Mickey Hunt

[Note: High quality photos of monarchs on the BRP are available to accompany this story.]

[For wholesale orders, a direct link to the book’s Create Space page: www.createspace.com/7121800.]

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