It has been two tough weeks since grounds crews inadvertently mowed down several hundred milkweed plants at our field site. To be honest, I am still pretty upset that this happened. We tried very hard to keep those plants marked and cleared all winter, and to communicate with the people that were in charge of maintenance there. I never got a response to my emails trying to coordinate marking and mowing, but I was told that those crews knew about our plants and our project. I wasn’t told that mowing was planned for that day, or even that month. In the past, I’ve suggested that mowing at this site should ideally happen before April, when our plants are underground. Our plants were flagged in multiple ways and arranged in a predictable and consistent pattern; it should have been easy to avoid them. The week before the mowing, I noticed that the grass was getting high, but I was pleased that our transect still seemed quite apparent. The entire sad situation seems so avoidable – mowing could have happened before the milkweeds came up, or if it had to happen later, I would have gladly added more flags or met with the mowers if I had the opportunity. I guess I’m still not over this. Our plants will come back, but a huge investment of time and resources will go into data collection this year, and we may not have a chance to do it again. I’ve not wanted to dwell on it, since there really is no way to repair this situation; the best we can do is to keep measuring and monitoring as the plant recover. Perhaps we will learn something interesting about how these populations recover from severe disturbance.
Which brings me to the data:
The number of milkweeds aboveground continues to increase. The mowing occurred in Week 5.
The plants are recovering; at least the mowing occurred early enough in the season that many of our plants were still quite small. Unfortunately, the monarch population have declined dramatically in weeks 5 and 6, with no caterpillars observed in the last two weeks.