Monarchs


Calling all western monarch and milkweed observers!

Published on October 3, 2017

Fall is here, which means the days are getting shorter, the nights are getting cooler, and monarchs from across the country are moving from summer breeding grounds back to their overwintering sites in California and Mexico. If you live in the West and have photos of monarchs and milkweed, we encourage you to post your Read more …


Harvesting Milkweed Seed: a Pod and a Plan

Published on September 7, 2017

As with comedy, harvesting milkweed seed is all about timing. Too soon and the seed will be immature and won’t germinate, too late and it will have either blown away or involve a flossy mess you’ll need to deal with before sowing. Here we’ll explore some methods of harvesting milkweed seed, separating the truth from Read more …


1.3 Billion Stems of Milkweed Needed in Midwest to Recover Monarch Population

Published on June 29, 2017

Adding milkweeds and other native flowering plants into midwestern agricultural lands is key to restoring monarch butterflies, with milkweed sowers from all sectors of society being critically needed for success. Within the past two decades monarch populations east of the Rockies have declined by 80%, with similar declines found in western populations. Because counting individual Read more …


Help Researchers Track Milkweeds and Monarchs across the West

Published on February 16, 2017

Monarch researchers are trying to understand why monarch overwintering populations are declining in the West, and we need your help! Overwintering monarch populations have declined by 74% in coastal California and more than 80% in central Mexico since monitoring began about 20 years ago. Researchers in the eastern U.S. have identified loss of milkweed (the Read more …


2017 Monarch Numbers Are Down, Lengthening a Worrying Trend

Published on February 9, 2017

The number of monarch butterflies overwintering was down this winter in both coastal California and in Michoacán, Mexico, according to recent announcements by the Xerces Society’s Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count and World Wildlife Fund–Mexico. In California, the Xerces Society’s Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count reported a total of 298,464 monarchs—a fraction of the 1.2 million reported Read more …


The Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count at 20: A record volunteer effort, but disappointing butterfly numbers

Published on February 7, 2017

In the fall of 1997, a small group of dedicated monarch scientists and volunteers set out to count how many monarch butterflies were overwintering in California, an essential step in understanding and conserving this remarkable insect and its migration. Twenty years later, the Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count (WMTC) is established as one of the longest Read more …


Western Monarch Conservation: A 40 Year History

Published on February 5, 2017

It was in 1976, at the World Congress of Entomology, held in Washington. D.C., when the North American migratory monarchs were named the number one priority in world butterfly conservation. The Mexican overwintering grounds had just been located the year before, one of the greatest natural history developments of the twentieth century, and a whole Read more …


The 2017 Perennial Plant of the Year, and Other Milkweeds You Should Know

Published on January 23, 2017

Each year since 1990, the Perennial Plant Association has designated a “Perennial Plant of the Year.” The designation has become well known amongst growers, landscapers, gardeners, and others who eagerly await the announcement each year. Selection often launches the chosen plant into the mainstream, making it more widely available. While the association has often favored Read more …


To Save Monarchs, we need More than just Milkweed

Published on December 7, 2016

The message is out: Monarchs are in decline across North America. The loss of milkweed plants due to extensive herbicide use and changes in farming practices, such as the widespread adoption of herbicide-resistant crops, has been identified as a major contributing factor of monarch’s decline in the eastern U.S. Disease, climate change, widespread insecticide use, Read more …


Five lesser-known places to see monarchs overwintering in CA

Published on November 23, 2016

As the Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count kicks into full swing, trained “monarch spotters” will be out and about documenting overwintering populations at hundreds of sites across California. While you may be familiar with the impressive monarch clusters, family-friendly amenities, and helpful docents at Pismo Beach, Pacific Grove, Natural Bridges, and Ardenwood Historic Farm there are many more places monarchs overwinter along the coast. Monarch enthusiasts at all levels can take pleasure in hunting down large collections of the colorful butterflies at some of these lesser-known overwintering sites.


Celebrating 20 years of the Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count!

Published on November 11, 2016

As the days get shorter and monarchs make their way to the forested groves along the California coast to settle in for the winter, volunteers for the Xerces Society Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count are preparing to head out to observe and monitor this migratory phenomenon. This year is particularly exciting because it marks the 20th Read more …


Russian explorers first to document monarch butterfly in California

Published on October 28, 2016

It’s October 2016. For a few weeks monarchs have been trickling in from all over the west and aggregating in groves along the California coast to settle in for the winter. Many people have regarded this event as an annual treat, looking forward to the return of the monarchs as surely as the swallows return Read more …


Monarch Butterflies in the Western United States

Published on July 20, 2016

The monarch butterfly has received a lot of attention in the last couple of years. Much of that has focused on the population that migrates through eastern North America, as far north as Ontario, and the problems facing the overwintering grounds in Mexico. Monarchs also breed in the western U.S. and research shows that they Read more …


Monarch & Milkweed Workshops Engage Public Land Managers in Western States

Published on

The Xerces Society recently held two workshops in Washington and Idaho to train regional land managers, including staff from state fish and wildlife agencies and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), in surveying for monarchs and milkweed in western states and learning about conservation of the western monarch. The workshops are a part of Read more …


Monarchs Overwintering in Coastal California Show Steep Decline Since the Late 1990s

Published on July 8, 2016

A new report, State of the Monarch Butterfly Overwintering Sites in California, released by the Xerces Society shows that in less than two decades the number of monarchs which overwinter along the California coast declined by an alarming 74% . This significant loss of butterflies mirrors the troubling trend seen in monarchs in central Mexico Read more …


Helping Monarch Conservation Take Flight

Published on June 16, 2016

The Xerces Society has been a proponent of monarch butterfly conservation for decades. In the early 1980s, Xerces founder Robert Michael Pyle and Lincoln Brower worked to list the monarch migration as an endangered phenomenon with the IUCN, and the Society’s first employee was hired to conserve California overwintering sites at that time. In the Read more …


What Santa Monica can do about monarch butterfly decline

Published on June 4, 2016

In 1997 there were more than 1.2 million monarchs overwintering in California and in 2014 only 234,000 – an 81 percent decline from the 1997 high, 48 percent decline from the 18- year average, and just over 10 percent per year. What has caused such a decline? The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, which studies Read more …


Butterflies and Volunteers: The Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count

Published on February 4, 2016

The final results from the Xerces Society’s annual Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count have just been released, and the numbers are promising. Volunteers visited 187 sites this year and counted 271,924 monarchs, which is higher than last year. However, the average number of monarchs per site is not significantly different from last year, and this year’s Read more …


A First Glimpse at the State of Western Monarchs

Published on December 14, 2015

Throughout this last summer, people from across the western United States were telling us about monarchs they had seen. Particularly notable were the reports from places where monarchs are not usually seen, including Oregon’s Willamette Valley and even here in Portland. Coming at a time when there is a renewed interest in this remarkable long-distance Read more …


All Aboard the Monarch Express

Published on November 13, 2015

Of all the butterflies in North America, the monarch can probably claim the largest fan club. Over recent decades, love for the monarch spawned a network of loyal enthusiasts growing milkweed and creating backyard oases across the country. Despite this, years of declining populations in both the eastern and western U.S. led to a petition Read more …


Releasing Monarch Butterflies is Not a Good Conservation Strategy

Published on October 8, 2015

Breeding and releasing monarch butterflies might seem like a harmless activity, something that might even help struggling populations. Unfortunately, the practice holds the potential to actually harm wild monarchs and disrupt research that is critical to their conservation. Demonstrating the breadth of concern that exists over this practice, the Xerces Society has joined with the Read more …


North American monarchs imperiled

Published on March 17, 2015

By Steve Law, Portland Tribune North American monarch butterflies are vulnerable to extinction, according to a new assessment by NatureServe and the Portland-based Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. The assessment was done as part of a report for the U.S. Forest Service, called Conservation Status and Ecology of the Monarch Butterfly in the United States, Read more …


Monarchs may win ‘endangered species’ protection

Published on January 6, 2015

By The Ecologist Endangered Species Act protection may be warranted for Monarch butterflies, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency will now conduct a one-year status review on monarchs, which have declined by 90% in the past 20 years. The migratory butterflies are especially vulnerable as they migrate vast distances of 3,000 Read more …


Monarchs being pushed toward extinction?

Published on January 2, 2015

By Lee Shearer, Athens Banner-Herald Genetically engineered crops are driving the iconic monarch butterfly toward extinction, according to scientists and environmentalits. Federal officials think they may have a case. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week announced a year-long review of the groups’ petition to give the monarch protection under the federal Endangered Species Read more …


Monarchs Come a Step Closer to Getting Much Needed Protection

Published on December 30, 2014

Alicia Graef, Care2 As conservationists continue to worry about the possibility of a world without monarchs, they’ve gotten some hope with an announcement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) that federal protection may be warranted for these iconic butterflies. In August, the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Xerces Society for Read more …


Petition Seeks to Protect Monarchs

Published on September 5, 2014

By Jim Lundstrom, Peninsula Pulse A legal petition was filed on Aug. 26 with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that seeks Endangered Species Act protection for monarch butterflies. The petition says there has been a 90 percent decline in monarchs in the past two decades. The petitioners say the decline is due to the Read more …


Monarchs, milkweed and the spirit of Rachel Carson

Published on February 23, 2014

By Gary Paul Nabhan, Los Angeles Times

After news broke recently that the number of migratory monarch butterflies that had arrived to winter in Mexico was the lowest since reliable records began, I went on the road on behalf of the Make Way for Monarchs initiative. This solutions-oriented collaboration is working to place millions of additional milkweeds in toxin-free habitats this next year. Why? Monarchs cannot live without milkweeds, and milkweeds are disappearing.