Talk 2 The Animals: Celebrating Western Monarch Butterflies

Today, Western Monarch Day, celebrates the annual migratory return of the Western Monarch butterfly to the central Californian coast. Annually they migrate between the regions west of the Rocky Mountains including northern Canada and overwintering sites at the coast of California.

The western monarch population is not as large as the eastern monarch population and it’s migration doesn’t cover the distance. Even so, the California overwintering sites often have tens of thousands of butterflies.

Loss of Overwintering Western Monarchs

While tens of thousands of butterflies may sound like a lot, it is actually a significant drop. [One] study found a 74 percent drop in Western monarch numbers over the years, the first time that a definitive number has been placed on decline of Western monarchs. What used to be an arriving cloud of 1.2 million butterflies in 1997 to the coast has dwindled to a wisp of 292,674 in 2015.

The decline in the western monarch population is attributed to:

  • Loss of Milkweed
  • Loss of overwintering groves
  • Reduced overwintering habitat quality
  • Climate change

Ways to Help Monarchs

Yes, there are ways each of us can help the monarchs. Here are just a few:

  • Plant milkweed. Here is a milkweed information sheet for a list of milkweed species prioritized by region that are known to be used by monarchs and easy to establish in gardens and fields
  • Plant nectar plants in your garden. Monarchs need nectar to provide energy for breeding, the migratory journey, and the long winter. Use plants native to your area in the garden. Here is an excellent listing of the US regions and the plants that will attract and help the monarchs
  • Avoid using pesticides in your garden
  • Contact local public land managers and encourage them to create monarch habitats. Roadsides and parks are two places where habitats can be created
  • If you’re of a scientific mind bent, join citizen-science efforts that track monarch populations. This information is used to monitor population trends and to learn what is behind their numbers from year to year.
  • Support monarch conservation efforts either in volunteering or through donations
  • The Xerxes Society is a tremendous source to start your research in helping the monarchs

If you have more questions about the Western Monarch, check out these FAQs.

Each of us must play a part in the conservation of our natural world, if for no other reason than We All Do Better When ALL Creatures Do Better. 

Here’s To New Beginnings,


from Janet Roper, Animal Communicator & Educator


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