Sill studies butterfly effect: Asks everyone to lookout for clusters of monarchs

By Marie PihulicSeptember 29, 2023

Monarchs roosting
Monarchs basking at sunrise before taking flight from a bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) thicket roost site. (Photo Credit: Denise Gibbs) VIEW ORIGINAL

Fort Sill is one of many stops on the monarch butterfly’s migration path. Twice a year they flutter through the same fields where artillery echoes through the surrounding area.

And in case you were wondering, they do not seem bothered by the “sound of freedom.”

“They use milkweeds for breeding which is actually a good thing. Milkweed is a disturbance-driven plant,” said Russell Martin, Fort Sill endangered species specialist.

Martin explained that fire and even the act of haying can help the milkweed habitat.

“A lot of our activities are compatible with the monarch,” he said.

Fall Monarch Migration
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Monarch Butterfly Fall Migration Patterns. Base map source: USGS National Atlas. (Photo Credit: U.S. Forest Service) VIEW ORIGINAL
Spring, Summer Monarch Migration
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Monarch Butterfly Spring and Summer Migration Patterns. Base map source: USGS National Atlas. (Photo Credit: U.S. Forest Service) VIEW ORIGINAL

While they enjoy stopping at the Fires Center of Excellence, more is needed to restore their dramatically declining population numbers.

“U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is having to make a determination on whether or not to list the species under the Endangered Species Act, and if they’ll list them as threatened or endangered,” said Martin.

Natural Resources had a special visit Sept. 19 by a group who works with government and non-government agencies to protect the monarch.

“Given that we are on what’s considered the monarch’s migration highway, Monarch Joint Venture wanted to come down and create a working collaboration with us to see what kind of habitat we have,” said Vici White, Natural Resources Specialist.

Environmentalists are asking everyone enjoying Fort Sill’s outdoors to be on the lookout for monarchs. If you see a group of monarchs on a tree or shrub, take a photo and note the exact location to share with Natural Resources.

“Roosting is like a stop-over for monarchs,” White explained. “We need to get in and see if they’re roosting here and what time period.”

“The front leading edge of the monarch migration is in Wichita, Kansas right now with the bulk of them coming through the Midwest. They’ll pass through here the last week of September into the first week of October. If people can keep an eye out for large monarch roosts during that timeframe that would be extremely helpful,” said Martin.

He went on to explain how the insect is not only an important pollinator which effects plants and animals, but also has an impact on humans as well.

“There is a lot of emotional attachment people have to monarchs. People remember seeing them as kids passing through in the thousands. When they see them now passing through in the hundreds people recognize that difference and that has really caught people’s attention.”

“We’re just doing our part to make sure they don’t go from thousands to hundreds to tens to nothing,” said Martin.

Contact Natural Resources if you find a roosting location, at 580-442-4324. They can also provide more tips on how to help preserve the monarch butterfly population.