Western monarch butterflies appear to be making a comeback for the first time since populations began declining in the 1990s. These gorgeous, brilliantly orange butterflies use to be quite abundant in California, but it’s been decades since we could enjoy the sight of these magnificent creatures. Thankfully, monarch populations are experiencing a rebound across the state this year!
The Xerxes Society For Invertebrate Conservation reported that there are “early signs of hope,” as a preliminary count shows western monarch populations blowing past last year’s record low of just 1,914 total. This year, over 1,300 butterflies were counted in Pacific Grove alone, a site which did not report a single butterfly in last year’s count. Across the entirety of the state, rough estimates are already at over 10,000. The official Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count for 2021 will begin on November 13 with the help of over 100 community scientists.
After the monarch population experienced a 99.9% decrease since the millions reported in the 1980s, this major uptick in numbers seems nothing short of a miracle!
Are western migratory monarchs recovering? Reports from overwintering sites in coastal California indicate western monarchs are returning in greater numbers than last year, giving hope for the struggling population.
— The Xerces Society (@xercessociety) October 21, 2021
Scientists, volunteers, and members of the public have reported massive monarch populations in the Bay Area, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Big Sur, Ventura, Los Angeles and more. The Mercury News reports that you can spot the vibrant insects at Mountain View’s Google Campus and neighborhoods of Palo Alto.
Historically, according to SF Bay Wildlife, good places to watch the insects include Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz, Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Pacific Grove, Pismo Beach Grove, Ardenwood Regional Preserve in Fremont, and Monarch Bay Golf Course and Marina in San Leandro.
According to the Xerces Society, monarch populations are likely flourishing again due to favorable conditions on their breeding grounds, such as temperature, rainfall, and food availability. But we’re not out of the woods yet – they say monarch populations are still very close to extinction despite this year’s increase.
“The Xerces Society and partners are focused on conservation at overwintering sites, in early season breeding areas and ensuring late season floral resources exist for migrating monarchs,” said Sarina Jepsen, Director of Endangered Species and Aquatics Program at the Xerces Society. “These are the actions that we and other scientists feel are the most important to successfully recover western migratory monarchs.”
Looking for ways to help these beautiful creatures? Consider getting involved in the Western Monarch Call to Action, which works to protect monarchs and their native habitats all across the state.