WSU Monarch Study

WSU Monarch Study

Last year, due to a shortage of migrant labor, apple growers used state prisoners to help with the apple harvest. WSU entomologist David James also employs the help of prison inmates at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. Together they rear and study Monarch butterflies to help determine why Monarch populations are decreasing. James discusses the project that started in June.

JAMES: It’s a program that we’ve set up to identify the migration routes of the monarch butterfly in the Pacific Northwest. The crux of this research is the rearing of the butterflies to create enough numbers of butterflies to tag and to release.

But why use inmates to help in the study?

JAMES: Inmates at penitentiaries have been shown to be very good at rearing creatures. When you rear large quantities of caterpillars you get disease problems if you don’t attend to the hygiene. We get great attention to the hygiene by the prisoners. They are a very good resource for us to use to rear butterflies.

Migratory pollinators such as Monarch butterflies are vitally important to the integrity of regional biodiversity, to global food webs, and to the future well being of humans. Monarch butterflies reared at WSP are set for release the week of July 9. Anyone spotting a tagged Monarch should use the contact information on the tag to report the location and serial number of the butterfly.

I’m Lacy Gray and that’s Washington Ag Today on the Northwest Ag Information Network. 

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