Photo: Jay Mather.

Renewed Hope for Western Monarch Butterfly

Jan 10, 2022 by Jana Hemphill
Preliminary overwintering Western monarch butterfly population numbers are at a little more than 200,000!

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This year is starting off on a hopeful note for Western monarch butterflies. In December, the Xerces Society reported preliminary overwintering Western monarch population numbers at a little more than 200,000!

Land Trust stewardship director Amanda Egertson says, “final numbers will be tallied in the coming months, but this is VERY exciting news to all of us who have been watching the precipitous decline of Western monarchs and planting as much native milkweed and other pollinator friendly plants as fast and as plentiful as possible.”

This staggering “bounce” represents at least a 100x increase in population size from last year’s dismal tally of less than 2,000 individual overwintering butterflies and exceeds the counts of the past five years.

A monarch butterfly in Prineville. Photo: Land Trust.
A monarch butterfly in Prineville. Photo: Land Trust.
Does this mean we’re in good shape and can safely stop conserving and restoring habitat for monarch butterflies? NO!! Just the opposite! It means we need to continue to expand our efforts and do all we can to support Western monarchs and other declining pollinators. Remember, historic overwintering population sizes used to range from 1-10 million monarchs—so we’ve still got a long way to go to get back to those numbers. We also still need further research and investigation in order to better understand where Western monarchs are going, when they are going, where and when they are reproducing, and how to evolve our stewardship of the land to best support them.

In addition, the recently signed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act included funding to help make roadsides more pollinator friendly, including for monarch butterflies. Originally called the Monarch and Pollinator Highway Act of 2021 and introduced by Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Representatives Jimmy Panetta and Salud Carbajal of California, the act authorizes the US Department of Transportation to make $2 million in grants each year over the next five years to carry out actions that benefit our pollinators along roads and highways.

Stay tuned as the overwintering monarch story continues to unfold! Learn how you can help monarchs and other pollinators, including signing up to receive free native milkweed seeds from us. We can all be part of the Butterfly Brigade!