Monarch Watch Blog

Monarch Population Status

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021 at 12:24 pm by Chip Taylor
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The migration is underway!

As you may remember, earlier I offered that the recolonization this past May and early June of the summer breeding area was quite favorable. Monarchs generally arrived on time and in good numbers leading to a large second generation. Things looked favorable for a large migratory population that could rival that of 2018 (6.05 hectares) – provided that the summer temps were within 2F of the long-term average and that September temperatures in the north were generally normal as well.

I have been following the weather closely for the last several months and things still look good for a large migration over most of the summer breeding area. However, I have doubts about the number of monarchs that will join the migration from the eastern Dakotas and western Minnesota. Portions of that region have been much warmer and drier than is generally ideal for monarch population development.

In contrast, due perhaps to adequate rainfall and moderate summer temperatures, monarchs are much more abundant in Oklahoma and Texas at this time, suggesting that high numbers of monarchs could join the migration from this region in late September and October. The September temperatures are still a question, but there is no evidence of a drought in Texas or elsewhere that might diminish the possibility of surviving the passage to the overwintering sites.

Overall, while the conditions for population growth have been less favorable than in 2018, suggesting an overwintering population of less than 6 hectares, there is every reason to expect a larger overwintering population in Mexico this year than seen during the last two winters (2.83 hectares for 2019-2020 and 2.10 hectares for 2020-2021).

Given the winter, spring, and summer monarch numbers as well as the extreme summer temperatures and drought conditions in the West, the prospects for an overwintering population of more than a few hundred monarchs along the California coast appear to be slim at best.

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