California monarch numbers increase after record lows

Monarch butterflies are planning to spend their winters on the coast of California in greater numbers this year, according to surveys. More than 1,300 monarchs (Danaus plexippus) were reported at the Pacific Grove site in mid-October while Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove and another nearby site had 8,000 butterflies on Oct. 21. The latter two sites saw less than 300 butterflies last year, while the population in the entire area had a record low of 1,914 butterflies last year. While official counts for the whole population are still not yet underway, these initial numbers are encouraging considering the last few years’ counts have all been incredibly low. Butterfly conservationists believe the high numbers this year are a result of favorable conditions on the breeding grounds and other factors. “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 the Endangered Species and Aquatics Program at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, in a release. “These are the actions that we and other scientists feel are the most important to successfully recover western migratory monarchs.”

Read more at the Xerces Society.

Header Image: Monarch butterflies overwintering in Monterey cypress. Credit: Joanna Gilkeson/USFWS