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Tuesday, February 7 • 2:20pm - 2:40pm
Technical Session. The Ecology of the Monarch Butterfly Relative to Density, Host Plant Occurrence and Habitat Use in the Flint Hills

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AUTHORS: Caroline Skidmore, Kelsey McCullough - Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Kansas State University; David Haukos, U.S. Geological Survey, Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

ABSTRACT: Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) were once abundant across North America, but populations have declined by 81% in the last decade. Population declines, principally within the central Great Plains (CGP), and consideration for listing under the Endangered Species Act makes research on the ecology, population trends, and habitat requirements of the Monarch especially relevant. Knowledge of the habitat use patterns of Monarchs is necessary to improve conservation efforts in the CGP. Specifically, modeling occurrence of milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) will assist in management of Monarchs throughout their range. Although much of the Monarch’s range within the CGP consists of cropland, understanding Monarch habitat requirements in native prairies should also be a focus. Documenting Monarch response to prairie management strategies will assist in conservation planning. We measured Monarch density in tall-grass prairie managed using haying, grazing, and prescribed fire at Fort Riley Military Reservation (FRMR) and Konza Prairie Biological Station (KPBS) in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Our objectives were to (1) derive temporal population density estimates of Monarchs during May-August (2) compare average population density responses among management strategies and (3) create models to predict the influence of vegetation composition on the density of adult Monarch butterflies and predict the occurrence of milkweed within FRMR and KPBS. We conducted repeated transect surveys of Monarch butterflies among 37 and 25 transects in FRMR and KPBS during 2015 and 2016, respectively. Concurrently, we recorded locations of ~100 milkweed clusters. The greatest density of Monarchs was found in transects with high fire return interval or hayed. Monarch densities greatly increased within the Flint Hills in August due to their migration south. These results provide a direction for Monarch conservation, expressing the need to manage their habitat through high fire return intervals and haying.

Tuesday February 7, 2017 2:20pm - 2:40pm CST