On June 25-27 I drove south on highway 395 between Gardenerville, Nevada to the Bishop an Big Pine, Calif area:
The irrigated valleys in this region support quite a bit of milkweed growth, especially in Bishop and Big Pine area where I spent most of my time.
I was shocked to find NO MONARCHS at all in the Bishop and Big Pine area despite the usual enormous abundance of milkweed. This is the first year I have ever failed to see any monarchs in that area (Owens Valley) in June.
Here are some examples of the large fields and patches of speciosa milkweed I saw on the irrigated land in the Bishop and Big Pine area that was in bloom and
normally would have attracted several monarchs:
Speciosa milkweed on the Indian Creek (horse) Ranch at the west end of Fowler Street in Bishop, Calif.
North end of Indian Creek Ranch in Bishop, Calif:
Aerial view of the Indian Creek Ranch in Bishop where
the vast quantities of speciosa milkweed were seen:
Although monarchs were too scarce to be detectable in Bishop, Tiger Swallowtail butterflies were abundant. At one spot I was able to take a picture of THREE of them feeding on one clump of speciosa milkweed flowers:
Further north up at Coleville, Calif. the speciosa was beginning to bloom, but once again I saw no monarchs.
Continuing further north up to the Dresslerville, Gardnerville and Minden, Nevada area I checked the speciosa along Memdewee Run Rd:
the speciosa along Pinenut road at the Corley Ranch:
the speciosa along waterloo Rd and it was here that I finally saw one monarch:
In summary, it appears northern and central California monarch populations are still perhaps the lowest they ever have been and show no signs of a substantial recovery to date although we won' know for sure until about August 5. Some years the population grows alot between July 1 and Aug. 5 and some years it crashes and some years are inbetween these extremes.
The lack of monarchs in the Bishop area to date is particularly disturbing and since the Bishop monarchs migrate mostly to Santa Barbara County, the famous Ellwood Main overwintering site might have another season with a really small population this coming winter.