Western Monarch Spring Report #11

By Gail Morris

A New Generation in the West!

There was a surge of new monarch sightings this week in California and Arizona. Monarchs are now speeding through the region to their summer breeding grounds leaving a trail of eggs and larvae in their wake. Meanwhile, new milkweed is preparing the way, poking up in the northernmost states.

Monarch & Milkweed Sightings

It was a week of “First Monarch Sightings” across the West!

On May 6 Erin spotted her first monarch of the season in Bishop, California. “Flying overhead near the Owens River.”

Judi saw her first monarch of the season, too, in the higher elevations of Arizona in Lakeside on May 7. “Great shape; 75 degrees, slight breeze; heading east and a touch northeast.”

On May 9 Cheryl saw a monarch in Vacaville, California. “Saw my 1st Monarch! Her bright beautiful, orange was unmistakable.”

Sara in Valencia, California, found a monarch on May 10. “First Monarch fluttering by in the late afternoon backyard; did not stop to feed. No milkweed available.”

Janet found 6 monarch larvae for the first time in her yard in Tucson, Arizona on May 4. “All located on horsetail milkweed [A. subverticillata] in my back yard. Several different instar.”

Milkweed continues to emerge in the northern regions of the West, too.

Samantha in Hamilton, Montana, found hers continuing to grow on May 7. “Second photo of a well-established patch of milkweed that supports Monarchs.”

Observing Monarch Behavior

We always welcome your sighting information and photos. They help memorialize the adult monarch, egg, larvae or pupae you found. When you see a monarch, do you ever find yourself asking questions about its journey? Right after Earth Day, I was thrilled to see the first Spring monarch fly over the roof and land on a flower to enjoy a sip of nectar at the end of the day. Then two days later a very fresh and new female monarch flew into my backyard just after noon and landed on a Desert (Rush) Milkweed, Asclepias subulata, that was just beginning to bloom. It was a warm day in the middle 90’s and this milkweed was now in the shade for the afternoon. The female monarch flew around the yard many times and then stopped again to rest on the milkweed. But she never laid any eggs. Instead she perched just below the budding flowers a while then repeated her circular flight and landing pattern.

I couldn’t stop thinking about her. This female monarch could have already laid her eggs for the day and maybe she’d return in the morning to lay eggs on the fresh, soft, new milkweed growth of Spring. But she never did. So, was it possible she still hadn’t mated yet? The number of monarchs in the greater Phoenix area was not that great so perhaps since she looks like a pretty new monarch she had not yet mated. She was obviously very attracted to the milkweed. We’ll never know the answer, of course. But when you see them, take a few moments and closely observe their behavior. Let us know what you see.

May Monitoring

Keep an eye out - fresh and new monarchs are emerging! Keep your camera handy and send in your photos. Are adult monarchs’ wings new and bright colored or worn and faded? Looking for larvae on nearby milkweed? Be sure to look early in the morning when they are more likely to be feeding near the top of plants. Check milkweed plants for eggs. They are usually on the underside of leaves.

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.