Monarch Watch Blog

Monarch Watch Update January 2023

Saturday, January 14th, 2023 at 12:44 pm by Jim Lovett
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Greetings Monarch Watchers and Happy New Year to all!

As many of you already know, Monarch Watch celebrated 30 years of education, conservation, and research in 2022 – WOW! We are very thankful for everyone who continues to support us through donations, participation in our programs, and other activities that serve our mission to sustain the monarch migration.

Included in this issue:
1. Monarch Population Status
2. Monarch Watch One Day Fundraising Event
3. Monarch Watch 30-year celebration
4. Monarch Symposium
5. Monarch Watch Tagging Kits for 2023
6. Submitting Tag Data
7. Milkweed Programs
8. Monarch Waystations
9. About This Monarch Watch List

1. Monarch Population Status – Chip Taylor

Status of the eastern monarch population (as of December 2022)

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Monarch numbers each season are largely due to the timing and numbers from one stage in the annual cycle to the next. Habitat availability, which comes down to the abundance and distribution of milkweeds as well as the nearby sources of nectar, sets the upper limit for monarch numbers. More habitat means more monarchs if the temperatures and rainfall throughout the year are close to the long-term averages. However, the conditions are seldom, if ever, optimal. So, the task, for those of us developing stage specific models for wildlife, is to determine how birth rates and death rates are affected within each stage that determines the number entering the next stage.

The monarch annual cycle can be broken down into six stages: (1) overwintering from November to April, (2) migrating back to the US late February to April, (3) breeding from March to May by returning monarchs, (4) first generation recolonization of the summer breeding areas north of 40N, (5) summer breeding from May to September and (6) migration from August to December.

The area of the forests with monarchs this winter is going to be low – probably one of the all-time low numbers – close to, if not below, 1 hectare (2.47 acres). I could see that the numbers would be down this year as early as late May and nothing happened through the rest of the season to change that assessment.

So, what happened from stage to stage this year? For a complete analysis, please see the recent Monarch Population Status post via our blog at

2. Monarch Watch One Day Fundraising Event

Monarch Watch will again be featured in the University of Kansas’ annual “One Day. One KU.” 24-hour fundraising campaign which will take place in mid-February. The event will provide an opportunity for Monarch Watchers all over the globe to come together and show their support of our program.

In the past, many of you commented that you would like more notice of this event so this is just a quick heads-up before an official announcement that will be made in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

3. Monarch Watch 30-year celebration – Chip Taylor

In the 30 years of Monarch Watch, I have had the privilege of working with many people who have had a strong interest in monarchs, education, research, conservation, outreach, filmmaking, and more. I benefited and Monarch Watch grew as a result of these many relationships.

For our 30-year anniversary, we wanted to both celebrate our achievements and thank the many people who have supported our mission through the years. We held a three-day event in September that included a banquet, symposium, garden party and monarch tagging event. That involved a lot of planning by all four of us but especially by Jim Lovett, Ann Ryan and Dena Podrebarac. Thanks to their hard work and the invaluable assistance of the entire Kong family, the celebration exceeded our expectations.

We were joined by hundreds of visitors, representing 3 countries and 30 states/provinces. Our guests also included nine of our Monarch Conservation Specialists, past staff and students, KU colleagues, volunteers and many long-time supporters. One surprise for me was the attendance of dozens of people I didn’t know – an indication that Monarch Watch has affected more people than we are aware of.

The banquet was held at Abe and Jake’s, an event facility located adjacent to the Kansas (Kaw) River. Guests were treated to live music, good food, and excellent company. The banquet ended with three speeches by Brad Williamson, who helped me start Monarch Watch, Laurie Adams, a long-time leader of the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign and the Pollinator Partnership and lastly, myself. I did some introductions and thanked many people and institutions that have helped Monarch Watch through the years. These comments were followed by a bit of history and the announcement about the future of Monarch Watch. It was a great evening.

A monarch symposium followed the next day with about 170 attendees. There were 13 talks with some speakers connected via zoom, others with pre-recorded talks and some in attendance. There was some excellent Q and A between the audience and experts at the end of the symposium. I couldn’t imagine this all going smoothly, but it did – thanks to everyone’s cooperation and Jim’s technological and organizational skills. The symposium was recorded and the video can be found, along with other materials, at

The symposium was followed by an evening in Monarch Waystation #1 – our garden so ably maintained by the Douglas County Master Gardeners. There were several things going on in the garden including a video by Gwynedd Vetter-Drusch, the dedication of a sculpture, live music and celebratory cookies. There was even a place where people could stop by to ask me questions or just chat.

The celebration wrapped up on Saturday with a monarch tagging event at the Baker Wetlands. The weather was great and those in attendance, at least 420 including many children, collected, tagged and released over 300 monarchs. After the event, the staff, volunteers, and a few exhausted attendees, assembled under the trees at Monarch Waystation #1 for a well-deserved pizza party.

All in all, the celebration seemed to hit the right notes for the attendees and the symposium received especially high marks. For me, this event confirmed that, in spite of all the improved means of communication enabled by technology, there is nothing quite like getting together face to face.

[ Jim ] Thank you to everyone who joined us for this celebration! We’d love to see photos or video from the events – if you have some that you would like to share, please do so via any method detailed at

4. Monarch Symposium

As Chip mentioned above, Monarch Watch held a mini monarch symposium at the University of Kansas as a part of our 30-year events in September. There were 170 attendees and 13 presentations by monarch experts and enthusiasts that were in person, pre-recorded, or remote. The 10-minute presentation format we adopted for this symposium allowed us to cover a number of topics in a relatively short amount of time and the feedback from presenters and attendees alike was overwhelmingly positive. We hope to do this again.

Materials distributed at the symposium are available online at the link below, including the symposium program (which contains the planned order of presentations, complete information about the presenters and their presentations (name, affiliation, contact information, title and abstract), a list of select monarch and milkweed publications from 2022, and a brief Monarch Watch timeline) and the 2021 Monarch Research Review, organized by the Monarch Joint Venture (which provides a summary of monarch research published between September 2020 and December 2021).

Additionally, the entire symposium was recorded and the full video (3h 33m) is now online at the link below and via our YouTube channel. Video “chapters” have been defined so that you may jump to a specific presentation at any time.

Monarch Watch Symposium 2022:

5. Monarch Watch Tagging Kits for 2023

Monarch tagging continues to be an important tool to help us understand the monarch migration and annual cycle. We are now accepting PREORDERS for the 2023 fall tagging season and kits will be sent out in the fall, ahead of the migration in your area. If you would like to tag monarchs this year, please order your tags as early as possible!

Monarch Watch Tagging Kits are only shipped to areas east of the Rocky Mountains. Each tagging kit includes a set of specially manufactured monarch butterfly tags (you specify quantity), a data sheet, tagging instructions, and additional monarch / migration information. Tagging Kits start at only $15 and include your choice of 25, 50, 100, 200, or 500 tags.

Monarch Watch Tagging Kits and other materials (don’t forget a net!) are available via the Monarch Watch Shop online at – where each purchase helps support Monarch Watch.

Complete information including datasheets and instructions are available on the Monarch Tagging Program page at

6. Submitting Tag Data

Many of you have submitted your recent tag data to us by mail or via our online submission form – thank you! We are still receiving data sheets and if you haven’t submitted your data yet (for 2022 or even previous years) it is not too late. Please review the “Submitting Your Tagging Data” information on the tagging program page then send us your data via the Tagging Data Submission Form.

Complete information is available at if you have questions about submitting your data to us and we have conveniently placed a large “Submit Your Tagging Data” button on our homepage at that will take you directly to the online form.

There you can upload your data sheets as an Excel or other spreadsheet file (PREFERRED; download a template file from ) or a PDF/image file (scan or photo).

You may also use the new Monarch Watch mobile app (available for Apple and Android devices) to record and submit data – download from your app store or visit

If you have any questions about getting your data to us, please feel free to drop Jim a line anytime via JLOVETT@KU.EDU

7. Milkweed Programs

Monarchs Need Milkweed. Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed, and you can get milkweed plants from Monarch Watch, possibly for free! Just choose the milkweed program that fits your situation.

Free milkweeds for habitat restoration projects

Monarch Watch will once again be distributing free milkweeds for planting in large-scale habitat restoration projects Spring 2023. Since this program began in 2015, nearly 732,000 milkweeds have been planted in restored habitat throughout much of the monarch range. To qualify, applicants must have a minimum of two acres (one acre or less in California) to restore to natural, native habitat, and have a management plan in place. Milkweeds are awarded on a first come, first served basis, so apply early.

Those awarded free milkweeds need only pay shipping/handling, which is modest compared to the value of the plants. Please help us spread the word by sharing widely. For more information and to apply, please visit:

Free milkweeds for schools and educational non-profits

If you are associated with a school or educational nonprofit and plan to plant milkweeds in a public garden space, we are taking applications for 2023. Applications will be reviewed beginning in January, and single flats (32–58 plants, depending on location and species) will be distributed to recipients in the spring, while milkweed supplies last. The application can be found here:

Milkweed Market

Native milkweeds for your garden or habitat may be available for purchase from our Milkweed Market (not available for all areas). The minimum purchase is one flat of plants (32–58 plants, depending on location and species). If your space is too small for a flat of milkweeds, share with your neighbors! We plan to have the Milkweed Market open for pre-orders by 1 February.

8. Monarch Waystations

To offset the loss of milkweeds and nectar sources we need to create, conserve, and protect monarch butterfly habitats. You can help by creating “Monarch Waystations” in home gardens, at schools, businesses, parks, zoos, nature centers, along roadsides, and on other unused plots of land. Creating a Monarch Waystation can be as simple as adding milkweeds and nectar sources to existing gardens or maintaining natural habitats with milkweeds. No effort is too small to have a positive impact.

Have you created a habitat for monarchs and other wildlife? If so, help support our conservation efforts by registering your habitat as an official Monarch Waystation today!

Monarch Waystation Program:

A quick online application will register your site and your habitat will be added to the online registry. You will receive a certificate bearing your name and your habitat’s ID that can be used to look up its record. You may also choose to purchase a metal sign to display in your habitat to encourage others to get involved in monarch conservation.

As of 4 January 2023, there have been 41,823 Monarch Waystation habitats registered with Monarch Watch!

You can view the complete Monarch Waystation Registry and a map of approximate locations via

9. About This Monarch Watch List

Monarch Watch ( ) is a nonprofit education, conservation, and research program affiliated with the Kansas Biological Survey & Center for Ecological Research at the University of Kansas. The program strives to provide the public with information about the biology of monarch butterflies, their spectacular migration, and how to use monarchs to further science education in primary and secondary schools. Monarch Watch engages in research on monarch migration biology and monarch population dynamics to better understand how to conserve the monarch migration and also promotes the protection of monarch habitats throughout North America.

We rely on private contributions to support the program and we need your help! Please consider making a tax-deductible donation. Complete details are available at or you can simply call 785-832-7386 (KU Endowment Association) for more information about giving to Monarch Watch.

If you have any questions about this email or any of our programs, please feel free to contact us anytime.

Thank you for your continued interest and support!

Jim Lovett
Monarch Watch

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