The Monarch Butterlies are alive and well. Look for them in your backyard.
Looking for some good news? You may have heard that the population of the Monarch butterfly in their Southern California over-wintering locations plunged from over 300,000 three years ago to under 2,000 last year. Where did they all go? It turned out that they were found wintering in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas as opposed to further south. As a result, exact counts were not available given the change in wintering locations.
Why did this happen? Scientists believe the Monarchs are adapting to climate change. As one scientist put it, ‘The Monarch is like the cockroach of butterflies. It’s very persistent and adaptable all around the world.’
Scientists note that the same change in wintering locations occurred in Australia in the 1970s. The Monarchs simply shifted their over-winter location elsewhere in the country as that continent warmed. And now this change of Monarch winter scenery may be underway here in the Western U.S.
When you consider butterflies, the Monarchs are iconic and quite popular with their large orange wings with black accents. Monarchs are also important pollinators all along their migration routes which in the Western U.S. is from the Pacific Northwest to southern California, and back. Monarchs favor milkweed and there has been a loss of milkweed habitat, leading to one key reason why recent Monarch population has apparently declined.
To more firmly discover if that decline is the case, citizen scientists in parts of Central and Southern California are partnering with scientists to help collect Monarch counts. One piece of good news is that there has been a huge increase in the number of caterpillars in the Bay area.
Scientists believe Monarchs will not go extinct. As one scientist noted, ‘They’re just very resilient.’