Western Monarchs 2019 Fall Report #4

Chasing Monarchs in the West

By Gail Morris

September 23, 2019

The warm temperatures have finally loosened their grip on the West with the first cold front of the season sliding through this week. Temperatures cooled to more seasonal ranges and rain graced the parched ground with severe storms drenching some Western lands. Snow dusted mountain tops in Utah and in Flagstaff, Arizona, as well. Monarch sightings continue to increase in the area as they hurry to their overwintering grounds.

Larry in Jerome, Idaho saw his first monarch this year on September 12 while Marissa in Lehi, Utah spotted one monarch flying through her garden on September 13.

Kim in Durham, California, is still seeing monarchs visiting her pollinator garden.

“Haven’t seen but three all summer but with September arriving now I’ve seen eight so far this month. Weather is cooling.”

Lindsay Martinez is a Science Communication intern with the National Park Service at Dinosaur National Monument in Vernal, Utah. The monument straddles the Utah/Colorado border West of the Rockies.  Last week Lindsay and several colleagues took an exciting four day adventure rafting down the Green River chasing monarchs in this remote National Park.

“We saw only 16 adult monarchs out and were able to tag 4 of them. 1 monarch was netted from the boat while it was nectaring on goldenrod and 2 others were caught in Echo Park. 3 of the tagged monarchs were body condition 3 [Excellent condition] so we believe they were real migrators. We endured some rainy and windy weather which may have hurt our chances to see adults flying. We did, however, find every stage in the life cycle - from eggs to every larval instar to pupae to adults. Further, we found a lot of milkweed all along the river and many plants had evidence of chewing on the leaves. Thus, even where we did not see an actual larva or egg, we knew there had been breeding at that milkweed patch based on the chew marks.”

Monarch sightings in Arizona, the California deserts and New Mexico have also appeared as monarchs enter even the lower deserts.

You can help us all learn more about the Fall migration in the West as it unfolds. Be sure to report every monarch sighting so we can all learn more about monarchs in the West.

Look at our Journey North Maps for ways you can report sightings:

  • Adult Monarchs
  • Monarch egg
  • Monarch Fall Roost
  • Monarch larva
  • Monarch Peak Migration
  • Monarch Captive-reared

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 database. 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.