Photo: Jay Mather.

Western Monarch Butterfly Overwintering Numbers Grow

Jan 10, 2023 by Jana Hemphill
Preliminary overwintering Western monarch butterfly population numbers are at more than 300,000!

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This year is starting off with great news for Western monarch butterflies. In December, the Xerces Society reported preliminary overwintering Western monarch population numbers at more than 300,000!

While final numbers are still being tallied for the Thanksgiving Count monitoring period, it's an encouraging sign. In fact, this year's number is 50,000 more than last year's Thanksgiving Count and the highest it's been since 2000! With recent heavy storms in California, however, we have our fingers crossed that these numbers will remain strong through the spring.

The Western Monarch Count is an annual effort by volunteer community scientists. They collect data from more than 200 monarch overwintering sites in southern California and northern Baja, Mexico.

A monarch butterfly in Prineville. Photo: Land Trust.
A monarch butterfly in Prineville. Photo: Land Trust.
Does this mean Western monarch butterflies are in good shape and we 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.

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!