California is the only place in the country that regularly hosts the awe-inspiring sight of thousands of monarch butterflies gathered for winter, and each spring they disperse across California searching for nectar sources and milkweed plants on which to lay their eggs.
According to the most recent Xerces Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count, the western monarch butterfly population is at an all-time low. Only 28,429 butterflies were counted in 2018, down a whopping 99.4% from the 1980’s.
Saving the population from collapse will require land conservation and protection, but two of the top five actions to help save western monarchs are things that we can do in our own yards:
1. Restore breeding and migratory habitat in California – Western monarch’s need Californians to plant nectar species, especially flowers that bloom in the early spring (February–April) to provide critical nectaring resources.
2. Protect monarchs and their habitat from pesticides - Western monarch’s need Californians to halt cosmetic use of pesticides. Seek out non-chemical options to prevent and manage pests in your garden and landscaping.
The tips and resources provided in the January 8, 2019 blog post on “the benefits of bugs” are relevant to monarchs too. And there will soon be a series of webinars by the Xerces Society with more information on how you can help western monarchs.
By Zooey Elsa Diggory, Senior Biologist, Santa Clara Valley Water District