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3363Re: [beemonitoring] cultural value of monarchs

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  • Johnson, Paul
    May 16, 2014
    • 0 Attachment
      Peter et al.,

      Regarding the meaning of monarch to American indigenous peoples take a look at the photographs (many are on-line) of the Lakota leader Sitting Bull where he is wearing his felt hat.  Attached in the front over the hatband is a monarch.  I was told by an artist at the Oglalla Lakota College that Sitting Bull used the monarch and its life cycle as a metaphor for the metamorphosis of life.  How this actually is part of Lakota culture I am not sure, but there is definitely the monarch on his hat.

      Paul J. Johnson, Ph.D.
      Professor of Entomology

      Insect Biodiversity Lab
      SAG 361, 1010 Rotunda Drive
      Box 2207A, South Dakota State University
      Brookings, SD 57007

      "It is simple, the Prime Directive of Biology is to discover, describe, and understand organisms.  All else is secondary fluff!"

      From: "Peter Bernhardt bernhap2@... [beemonitoring]" <beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com>
      Reply-To: Peter Bernhardt <bernhap2@...>
      Date: Friday, May 16, 2014 9:22 AM
      To: "Riddle,T Charles" <tcri@...>, Bee United <beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com>
      Cc: Liz Day <lizday44@...>
      Subject: Re: [beemonitoring] Pollination of asclepiads


      Dear Charles:

      Remember, sunflowers (Helianthus species) are endemic to North America.  Monarchs should encounter wild populations in bloom (and their sister genera like Helianthella) on the way south each year.  Furthermore, it's one of the few crops first domesticated by native Americans living west of the Mississippi but north of Mexico.  Monarchs could be extremely important to the pollination and genetic "health" of this genus in domestication or in natural populations.  

      In the past two decades, or so, big seed companies have brought out a self-pollinating, self-compatible sunflower for the seed and oil industry.  However, if you read the instructions on their seed sacks they insist that seed set in their breeds always improves with pollinator activity. I did a little work for a law firm suing a major seed company on this issue years ago (Don't ask!).  

      Here's another thing we have not considered and our Mexican members should be able to help us.  What did the monarch mean to the pre-Cortez civilizations of Mexico?  How do butterflies, in general, figure into Toltec, Olmec, Aztec etc. cultures?  Remember, these are the same people who gave us the domesticated zinnias, marigolds (Tagetes), dahlias and tube roses.  The first three are all nectar-secreting members of the Asteraceae with summer-autumn flowering periods. I've seen monarchs on zinnias, haven't you?  Hmmmm.  

      By the way, the Olmecs are credited with domesticating the cocoa bush.  Thank the next Olmec you meet.


      On Fri, May 16, 2014 at 9:02 AM, Riddle,T Charles <tcri@...> wrote:

      Funny sunflowers should be mentioned. The most monarchs I have ever seen was on a farm in southeastern Georgia that planted late sunflowers for and oil crop. At least two orders of magnitude greater than I have seen elsewhere.


      From:beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com [mailto:beemonitoring@yahoogroups.com]
      Sent: Friday, May 16, 2014 9:12 AM
      To: Liz Day; Bee United
      Subject: Re: [beemonitoring] Pollination of asclepiads



      Dear Liz:


      No, no the Canadian student isn't Sheila (who?).  I'm referring to an exchange made a few weeks ago.  You must have missed it (no great loss).  


      Monarchs need active research to determine their value as "long-distance" pollinators.  In particular, who knows how important they are to the autumn flowering members of the daisy family (Aster, Solidago) that produce big clones of many flowering stems all connected to the same rootstock.  This family of plants is known for its strong self-incompatibility mechanisms.  Self-pollinations and insect-mediated self-pollinations do not result in seed set in many species.  This, for example, is a big issue with the sunflower seed industry.  Do you realize that members of this family use their own stigma surfaces to present pollen to incoming insects?  That's why the flowers employ severe biochemical "self-recognition" mechanisms to make certain they do not accept their own sperm. It's a dev ice controlled by more than one gene.  This also means that the plants often can't cross with their parents, grandparents or siblings. 


      Yes, these plants are pollinated by a broad range of pollinators but which insects do the best job moving compatible grains between genetically different clumps of the same wildflower species?  Is it the teeny-weenie green halictid that is probably satisfied collecting pollen and nectar on a few flowering stems in the SAME clone? Or is it the mighty monarch wandering from goldenrod clump to clump over so many miles?   


      The problem is that field and lab research will horrify monarch lovers.  It will mean catching and killing a number of specimens to determine whether they are carrying viable pollen grains on their feet or proboscides.  Perhaps some clever member of our group can devise a technique to make a live monarch lose its pollen grains and then we tag and release them.






      On Thu, May 15, 2014 at 4:21 PM, Liz Day <lizday44@...> wrote:

      Hi Peter,

      It's remarkable to me how completely little we know about monarchs pollinating milkweeds. ! I would have thought this question would be answered. But of course you are right -  unless an insect is seen to remove a pollinium and later insert it, there is no way to be sure what it's doing.
      I know Bob Betz from my days in the 1980s working on prairie restoration near Chicago. I miss him.
      What's with the Canadian graduate students? You don't mean Sheila, right?