The 2020 Thanksgiving-2021 New Year’s
count of Western Monarchs came in shockingly low
Under 2,000 across 400 overwintering sites
NO butterflies at Monarch Grove Pismo State Beach
Put into perspective, monarch counts:
20 years ago – 2 to 4 million
5 years ago – 150,000
2019 – 30,000
2020 – under 2,000
WHAT HAS HAPPENED?
As the southern California ‘Conservation Specialist’ for Monarch Watch and ‘Champion contributor’ to Western Monarch Advocates, I have heard from the most knowledgeable monarch butterfly experts and here is the current assessment:
1. Global Warming – California is seeing the impact faster than any other state in the US, yet this is where monarchs overwinter. It is possibly too warm for them to be triggered to migrate and overwinter. f they do migrate, they are waking up by mid-February, when it used to be beginning of March. Creates problems for enough milkweed. The Heat Dome in August when temps in parts of Calif reached 112 degrees, likely killed monarch caterpillars as they die above 108 degrees.
2. Habitat Loss – Still not near enough milkweed and nectar plants available at the right times. Some lost to urbanization, agriculture, and FIRES in California. Some milkweed became toxic with all the ash from fires.
Tropical milkweed provides food to caterpillars as it leaves out year round, but can kill off monarchs with the resulting accumulation of O.e. if these plants aren’t pruned and leaves stripped off in mid-October to kill O.e. off.
3. Overwintering Site Tree Destruction – Many Eucalyptus trees for overwintering have fallen over or been cut down as they die from droughts in California (Climate change again). Some trees cut down by developers or homeowners as there is no government protection of the overwintering sites and monarchs were not made an endangered species at the end of 2020 because there are other animals considered of higher priority right now.
3. Pesticides– Agricultural and urban use of glyphosate (Round Up) and other pesticides causes pesticide to float airborne and end up on milkweed, wild and in our gardens. Noenicitinoids and other pesticides are sometimes used by growers of milkweed which will stay in/on the plant and is deadly to monarch caterpillars. Pesticides used in your city/community can float as well so advocate for less pesticide use when you can.
YOU CAN Help!
Get ready now as spring starts early in California
Check out topics on my blog
1. Plant Milkweed in your garden, native is recommended. However, if you plant or have tropical milkweed (from Home Depot, Lowes, Armstrong’s), COMMIT TO PRUNING it every year by MID-OCTOBER (earlier now) to 10″ stems and cut off all the leaves. If you purchase tropical, insist on it being pesticide free.
Pruning Tropical Milkweed in the Fall –
Imperative for Monarch Butterfly Health | Vanderlip.com
2. Plant spring, summer and fall Nectar Plants – Plan NOW and start to plant in February as soon as possible so monarchs have plenty to eat
3. Apply to Monarch Watch to certify your garden as a Monarch Waystation to help promote awareness of the need to help our pollinators https://www.monarchwatch.org/waystations/
4. Use no pesticides, fungicides or herbicides in your garden. If a monarch caterpillar writhes and dies, it has likely been poisoned by pesticide. Tropical milkweed is sometimes tainted by growers that use pesticide. Let nurseries know if their milkweed kills your caterpillars.
5. Advocate to others: Encourage your community, schools, churches to plant monarch gardens. Ask your City mayor to take the Mayor’s Pledge to plant for butterflies and pollinators.
Read more: About (nwf.org)
Reputable Additional Resources
SCHEDULE A ZOOM PRESENTATION with Butterfly Speaker: Susie Vanderlip
Monarch Butterfly presentation for your garden club, church,
school or garden event:
“Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Monarch Butterflies”
Contact: Susie@storyofchester.com 714-997-2158
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The Story of Chester, the Monarch Caterpillar/Larva
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