Where are the Monarch butterflies?

UUFSD is an official Monarch Waystation


The following update is from Stephen & Cindy Scott at Terroir Seeds | Underwood Gardens

We want to share some extremely encouraging news that shows – once again – the positive effects home gardeners have on systems and challenges much larger than ourselves.

Last year, western Monarch butterflies were almost completely missing from their overwintering tree groves of coastal California. The Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Pacific Grove, CA, is one of the largest Monarch wintering sites in the US, and didn’t see any Monarch butterflies last winter.

Not a single one.

However, on Monday, November 2nd – 4,164 of the bright orange and black butterflies were seen.

A week later – Monday, November 9th – 13,708 Monarchs were counted.

These numbers are a couple of weeks before the peak of the season in late November and early December!

Sarina Jepsen, director of the endangered species and aquatics program for the Xerces Society estimates that last year there were fewer than 2,000 Monarchs counted in all of the overwintering areas of California.

This year, the population is estimated to be over 50,000 already.

Last year’s serious decline is thought to be partly due to the ongoing drought and extensive wildfires during the Monarch’s migration.

Over the past 7 years, Cindy and I have seen home gardeners planting increasing amounts of milkweed and nectar plants each year to support the Monarchs and their caterpillars.

We first started working with the Spider or Antelope Horns milkweed variety in 2014, alongside the Xerces Society and a local vineyard.

In 2018 we partnered with Arizona Milkweed for Monarchs, a nonprofit pilot project organized by citizen science volunteers that hand-raises over a dozen milkweed species in central and northern AZ.

Since then, nearly 2,500 packets of milkweed seeds have been sown by home gardeners across the US, creating greatly diversified stands of multiple milkweed species – an incredibly beneficial improvement for Monarchs all across the continent. Each fall, these milkweed plants spread their seeds far and wide on the fall air currents, strengthening the milkweed population significantly.

Through this partnership, AZ Milkweed for Monarchs has furthered their studies of milkweed pests and diseases, evaluating the best habitats for the plants and how well Monarchs utilize each milkweed species at a given location, as well as collect, propagate and grow additional species of milkweed that aren’t available as of yet.

All of this would not be possible without you and your garden!

Posted by Rich Macdonald