Pace of Observations Slows

April 21, 2021 by Team Journey North

As monarchs from overwintering colonies fade away, we await the next generation and a surge in observations. Be ready to report!

“This is a photo of one of the female monarchs seen laying eggs today. Though she had worn and tattery wings, she did a wonderful job finding good milkweed…and flying in the strong winds. A north wind was blowing with gusts of 15mph at times. A strong and intrepid monarch!” Photo by: Kathy (Montgomery, TX; 04/10/2021)

Letter From Dr. Ellen Sharp: Adopt a Colony Project

In a special letter from Cerro Pelon Sanctuary, Dr. Ellen Sharp discusses Butterfly & Their People’s Adopt a Colony project. In the absence of on-site tours at Cerro Pelon this past winter, subscriptions to the Adopt a Colony project, including some from our Journey North community, helped this non-profit organization continue to protect monarchs while also providing needed employment to local communities. Dr. Sharp writes, “We’re happy to share a little snippet of our Adopt a Colony project with you. Ana, Pato and I produced ten mixed media e-magazines from November until March, and this clip comes from a longer piece that profiled Butterflies & Their People forest guardian Emilio Velazquez … Happily, subscriptions allowed our business to maintain six full time workers and subsidize the administrative costs of our non-profit, Butterflies & Their People.”

Read more of Dr. Ellen Sharp’s Letter: Adopt a Colony Project

Eastern Monarch Population

Migrating Monarchs

Last week, the leading edge of monarch migration was hovering around latitude 37-38°N. This week it is largely the same although there are a few pockets of reports farther north. Lower temperatures across much of North America could be slowing things down. Take a look at this temperature map from

Pam in Windsor, VA: “This was an old one [Monarch Butterfly]. It seemed to be scouting for milkweed which is now 4 inches tall.” (04/17/2021)

Susan in Lexington, KY: “Female monarch was laying eggs on emerging common milkweed.” (04/20/2021)

Multiple Journey North observers are noting how early it is in the season to see first arrivals. Some express joy while others express concern.

Heather in Columbus, OH: “I was shocked!!! But loved it…..earliest I have seen a Monarch in this area!!! (04/13/2021)

Cath in Knox, PA: “I saw a weathered female monarch nectaring on dandelions. I have never seen one this early before! June is typically when I finally see them in my yard. She went high flying east. It is so early here that there is no milkweed growing yet. It’s suppose to be really cold for a couple of days.” (04/19/2021)

Milkweed, Eggs and Caterpillars

After mating, female monarchs can lay eggs throughout their lifetime. Each butterfly lays hundreds of eggs. Because she dedicates her energies to egg-laying, the female only lives a few weeks during this stage of her life. Explore our map of egg reports to see where the next generation are being laid.

Demia in Chapel Hill, NC: “After seeing a monarch yesterday, I went back to look for eggs today. Amazingly I counted 25 eggs in my small milkweed patch. I’ve never seen that many before.” (04/15/2021)

Larvae reports are mostly coming in from the southern US, and some Journey North observers are noticing lower abundance compared to previous years.

Katherine in Cedar Park, TX: “Walking around 30+ Antelope Horn Milkweed plants in Cedar Park TX (near Austin) I saw 6 caterpillars. All seemed healthy. This is far fewer then I’ve found in this area in past years.” (04/14/2021)

Milkweed emergence is increasing as spring progresses. The northernmost report is from latitude 46°N in North Bay, Ontario.

Caitlynn in North Bay, ON: “Swamp milkweed shoot just just started!” (04/13/2021)

Anne in Wallace, MI: “Poke milkweed coming up in photo, also found a small common milkweed in another part of my gardens. Common milkweed was about 3” tall.” (04/18/2021)

Western Monarch Population

Letter from Gail Morris: Western Monarch Spring Report #8

Out West, Gail Morris shares news of favorable weather and evidence that spring migration is in full swing. Gail writes, “Monarchs expanded their range in the Southwest this week as ideal temperatures and winds provided a favorable opportunity to migrate. Southern and central California sightings multiplied in the coastal regions but other Western states also saw evidence of monarch movement as the migration is in full swing. One monarch was seen coasting at 6,600 feet following a highway up a mountain offering an easy flyway in their determination to fly north and east. At the same time, Utah reported their first milkweed up as spring rapidly spread across the region.”

Read more of Gail Morris’ Letter: Western Monarch Spring Report #8

Keep Reporting and Include Photos!

If possible, please include photos when reporting observations. Make sure your photo is properly rotated. Photos help verify reports and we enjoy sharing them with our Journey North community!