Western Monarchs 2020 Spring Report #7


By Gail Morris

Wild Weather!

Monarchs love warm, sunny days and this Spring has had more favorable weather than not in the West. But last week was a roller coaster of blustery winds, heavy rains, flooding and even snow in some parts of California and the Southwest where monarchs likely are this time of year. Many mountain ranges in California had snow several feet deep and even those in the southern region were dusted in white. Monarchs journey through mountain passes on their spring migration to the summer breeding grounds so we’ll all be looking for sightings on the eastern mountain slopes next month to see how they fare.


David saw an adult monarch in Pasadena, California, on April 1. “Single Monarch seen in Napa, CA.”

On April 8, Zandra spotted a monarch in Los Angeles. “Fresh wings, female.”

Coastal California has a marine climate with higher humidity, but there is a drastic climate shift when you cross the mountain passes moving east into the lower deserts. Deserts have low humidity resulting in large temperature extremes between day and night, sometimes as large as 40 degrees. Just outside of Palm Springs lies LaQuinta. Jeff reported monarch larvae in his yard on April 8. “Counted 4 2nd instar monarch caterpillars on my milkweed.” He’s also been enjoying watching the activity in his desert yard. “In my little butterfly garden my Monarchs are continually harassed by little flies or bees. My best guess is they are hover flies.” He also saw this male monarch on Tuesday, April 14. Look closely and you can see the pollinator Jeff found.

Also from LaQuinta, CA, Barbara found a female Monarch Butterfly visiting her back yard which was nectaring from plants and laying eggs on milkweed. Barbara counted 7 eggs and said it “had been two years since we last had a Monarch visit. So pleased.” (04/15/2020)

Our easternmost sighting this week in California was in Placerville on April 11. Deborah found one monarch, “On lilac bush.” Where do you think this monarch is heading?

This week the weather will warm up across the Southwest and we are hoping to see more monarchs once again on the move. This can be a quiet time in monarch sightings as long-lived monarchs that overwintered in California or elsewhere, reach the end of their lives. Soon reports of sightings should expand in Arizona, Nevada and beyond.

April monitoring

We should begin to see reports of monarch larvae and even fresh and new monarchs soon. Take time to walk in your neighborhood and record what you see. Spend time each day outside in your own yard watching. You’ll be amazed at the activity that is still happening all around you. Isolation is hard and many of us in the West still need to stay at home, but we can still explore nature’s beauty unfolding around us this spring season. Take your camera along and let us know what you find! There are many different sightings you can report to Journey North to help everyone learn about your observations.

Report your Sightings

Every monarch you see – whether an adult, egg, larvae or pupae – is important to report and we look forward to reading the observations that you send to Journey North this season! Are native milkweeds up and ready for monarchs where you live? Are native milkweeds blooming? Send in your photos!

Gail Morris is the Coordinator of the Southwest Monarch Study (www.swmonarchs.org), a Monarch Watch Conservation Specialist, and the Vice President of the Monarch Butterfly Fund and the Central Arizona Butterfly Association. The Western Monarch Population News is based on comments provided to Gail Morris. We hope to increase the number of sightings and therefore photos and comments entered into the Journey North. We rely on the volunteers who communicate regularly with Gail and who agree to participate in our effort to increase awareness of the population of western Monarchs.