Western Monarch Fall Report #11

By Gail Morris, Coordinator of the Southwest Monarch Study


On the Home Stretch

Cold, snowy, wintery weather descended on many Western states this weekend as monarchs hurry to reach their overwintering destinations along the California coast and in Mexico. Monarch sightings were once again limited to the lower deserts of Arizona and California.

Western Sightings

Patricia reported four monarchs in Oxnard, California on October 26. “They arrived together when the Santa Ana winds subsided. They roost in the Jacaranda trees and feed on zinnias and tithonia in our garden below. Three males, one female. Strong gliders not flutterers. Possibly early migration strays? They’re two weeks early.”

Yurik found one monarch in Emeryville, California also on October 26. “First one I have ever seen on the property in 8 years of living here. I have attempted to grow Showy and Narrow leaf milk weed and it never got very big an it had long since died. So I was super surprised to see this visitor stopping by for some food. I am thinking it is a female. SO exciting. there have not been many monarchs since I was a kid.”

Patty counted 40 eggs and several larvae in Tempe, Arizona on November 9. “I counted 40 eggs and several monarch larvae on A. subulata and A. curassavica in my yard. Today I found 10 stage one instar, 3 stage two instars and 2 stage three instars. There have been adults flying around the yard since Oct 4th and the weather has been between 70-90 degrees during that time.”

Ramona spotted one monarch in Marana, Arizona, on October 31. “No picture…happened quickly. It was about 3:53PM AZ time (know this because I texted my husband)…I was poolside at my hotel in Marana, and an adult monarch flitted over my head, bobbing in the breeze and then flitted off as quickly as it arrived.”

Judith saw one monarch on November 4 in Mountain View, California. “Flying over garden.”

Stephanie was the first person to report a monarch in Yuma, Arizona, on November 5. “When I stepped outside my house around 1:30 p.m. I saw a monarch butterfly flying near my front lawn. It was going westbound.”

Further North along the Colorado River, Iora found one monarch in Lake Havasu, Arizona, on November 7. “Seen near milkweed and nectar plants in butterfly garden of Los Lagos homeowner’s association.”

On November 8 Della saw a monarch in Superior, Arizona. “At 10:15am my friend Jill spotted an adult Monarch flying about 10 feet overhead at the entrance to Boyce Thompson. We checked in the pollinator garden but could not find it. It looked in good condition but sadly I did not get a photo. It was windy at BTA and about 77°F when we saw it.”

Tagged Monarch Sightings

Community Scientists across the West have been tagging migrating monarchs and a few of them have been spotted en route to the overwintering sites. Most sightings are live monarchs nectaring on flowers refueling for their journey. Monarchs of the Pacific Northwest started tagging in August and here are some of their sightings:

  • E4548 tagged 10/12 in Brookings, OR seen 23 days later in Inglehook in Northern CA, after a flight of 183 miles.
  • E4431 tagged 10/11 in Brookings, OR seen 20 days later in San Quentin, CA, after a flight of 300 miles.
  • E4702 tagged 10/11 in Brookings, OR seen 13 days later in Benicia, CA, after a flight of 300 miles.
  • E4489 tagged 8/27 in Canyonville, OR seen 10/16 in Petaluma, CA, after a flight of 325 miles.
  • E4254 tagged 9/28 in Elkton, OR seen 10/4 at Klamath, CA, after a flight of 146 miles.

The Southwest Monarch Study also had one tagged monarch sighting. Unfortunately, this one was deceased but we were fortunate to learn more about the Western migration through his life.

  • AB026 was tagged 10/20 in Scottsdale, AZ, seen 11/2 in San Diego, CA, after a flight of 309 miles.

As monarchs near the overwintering sites we are hoping to hear of more tagged sightings along the California coast and in Mexico. Each one adds a piece to the migration mystery puzzle in the West.

Look for late migrating monarchs

Monarchs are reaching the last leg of their journey as they move through California and Arizona. Keep an eye on the sky and flower patches for laggers still on their way. Remember to take your camera when you are traveling or on a hike or even in your own backyard. Thank you for reporting all your observations – every sighting helps all of us see the bigger picture of monarchs in the West. Submit your observations to Journey North – we look forward to hearing from you!

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. You can reach her at gail@swmonarchs.org.