Monarch Watch Blog

Monarch Watch Update July 2023

Friday, July 21st, 2023 at 5:27 pm by Jim Lovett
Filed under Email Updates | Comments Off on Monarch Watch Update July 2023

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Greetings Monarch Watchers!
As we’ve mentioned before, the number of communications we receive can be overwhelming at times, so we ask for your patience if you are waiting for a response – we are not always able to respond in a timely manner but we do try to address every email, voicemail and letter we receive. We love to hear from you but please be sure to check out all of the information we have online via our Website, Blog, Facebook page, etc. before contacting us with questions. THANK YOU! 🙂

Included in this issue:
1. Announcing a New Monarch Watch Director
2. Monarch Population Status —by Chip Taylor
3. Monarch Watch Tagging Kits for 2023
4. Submitting Tag Data
5. Native Milkweeds Available for California
6. Recent Posts to the Blog —by Chip Taylor
7. Monarch Waystations
8. Monarch Calendar Project
9. About This Monarch Watch List

1. Announcing a New Monarch Watch Director

We are excited to announce that Dr. Kristen Baum has agreed to become the new Director of Monarch Watch. She will join Monarch Watch in October.

Kristen comes to us from the Department of Integrative Biology at Oklahoma State University where she has served as Professor and Associate Dean for Research. Kristen’s position will be supported in part by the Chip and Toni Taylor Professorship in Support of Monarch Watch. As Director of Monarch Watch, she will be joining both the Kansas Biological Survey and Center for Ecological Research and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Dr. Baum’s research focuses on the effects of land use and management practices on pollinators, including native bees, honey bees, monarch butterflies, and other insects. Her research is relevant to issues associated with agricultural production systems (rangelands, canola, wheat), management practices (mowing, haying, prescribed fire), and conservation concerns in grasslands in the southern Great Plains. She has served on numerous state, regional, and national working groups to support conservation efforts for pollinators.

For more information about Dr. Baum’s research, including recent publications, please visit

Last year, Monarch Watch Director Chip Taylor announced that he would be stepping away from the program he created more than three decades ago in order to find time to complete several manuscripts and experiments. We will have more information about Kristen and the leadership transition at Monarch Watch in the near future.

2. Monarch Population Status —by Chip Taylor

The following are mid-summer reports. Both are on the optimistic side. However, there is a great deal of the season to go, and much could change. There is a drought beginning in Texas and that could reduce the numbers reaching the overwintering sites, and September temperatures, if well above the long-term averages, could delay the migration and take a toll of the numbers. In the West, much will also depend on the temperatures during the migration and at the prospective overwintering sites as the monarchs arrive in late October and early November.

Eastern Population
In the east, the second generation is on the wing. Some began emerging around the 10th of July and others have yet to take flight. The eggs laid by this cohort from mid-July to about the 10th of August will become the third generation – the migratory generation. The size of that generation will largely depend on the temperatures, nectar availability and quality and abundance of the milkweeds in the breeding areas north of 40N. (Roughly a line for St. Joseph, MO to Philadelphia). At this writing, there is reason to believe that the migratory population will be similar in numbers to those of most of the last decade – namely a population large enough to produce an overwintering population of 2-3ha in Mexico. There has been a sameness of this breeding season to many others except for two things. First, the number of first sightings in Texas was lower than average and the number of monarchs reaching the prairie provinces has been exceptional. For more on the latter see the recent Blog post “Monarchs: Reaching 50N and beyond”.

Western population
Although the Thanksgiving counts in 2022 yielded the highest number of monarchs in two decades (>335,000), those numbers declined greatly for unknown reasons by December. The stormy conditions and extreme rainfall that followed during the winter monarchs surely reduced the population further. Cold weather leading into spring appeared to delay the early development of the population, and overall, it didn’t look like the population was going to rebound. But now, with about 6 weeks to go in the breeding season, it looks like there will be modest numbers of butterflies from the NW states headed for the California coasts in late August and September. That’s a good sign. Still, the number of images submitted to iNaturalist is only about 50-60% of what the numbers were in the last two years and that does suggest that the population in the West will be lower this fall.

3. Monarch Watch Tagging Kits for 2023

Monarch tagging continues to be an important tool to help us understand the monarch migration and annual cycle – a long-term record is crucial to understand the dynamics of such complex natural phenomena. Tags for the 2023 fall tagging season are available and we have started shipping preorders out this week, ahead of the migration in your area. If you would like to tag monarchs this year, please order your tags soon! Tagging Kits ordered now should arrive within 10–14 days but priority will be given to preorders and areas that will experience the migration first.

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 for the 2023 season 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.

2023 datasheets and instructions are available online via the Monarch Tagging Program page at

Tagging should begin in early to mid-August north of 45N latitude (e.g., Minneapolis), late August at other locations north of 35N (e.g., Oklahoma City, Fort Smith, Memphis, Charlotte) and in September and early October in areas south of 35N latitude. See a map and tables with expected peak migration dates and suggested dates to begin tagging on the Monarch Tagging Program page at the link above.

4. Submitting Tag Data

Thousands of you have submitted your 2022 season tag data to us via mail, our online submission form, or our mobile app – thank you! We are still receiving data and if you haven’t submitted yours 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.

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).

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

5. Native Milkweeds Available for California

Attention California customers!

It has recently come to our attention that the ZIP code search in our Milkweed Market was not working properly. If you’ve tried to search the market for milkweeds available for your location and found none, please try again!

We have California milkweeds available for immediate shipping throughout the state via our Milkweed Market and our Free Milkweeds for Restoration program.

6. Recent Posts to the Blog —by Chip Taylor

As you may have noticed, there has been an increase in posts to the Monarch Watch Blog. There are a couple of reasons for this increase. First, I’m worried about the pending decision concerning the status of monarch. There is a high likelihood that at some time in 2024 monarchs will be assigned a threatened 4d status by the Fish and Wildlife Service. In these posts, I present my view, that, based on the evidence alone, monarchs are not threatened with extinction in the near future. To be sure, the population declined in concert with massive loss of habitat from the early 90’s to 2012 but has not continued to decline in the last 10-12 years. Further, this species has shown itself to be remarkably resilient in recent years in both the East and West. I also point out that the large populations of 1994-1996 are not the standard that should be used as the basis for understanding the sizes of all monarch populations past and future. Those were years with conditions that strongly favored population growth. To have three such years in a row is relatively rare.

The science says that sustaining the monarch population is all about sustaining the habitat and not about the monarch itself. So, that leads to the question of what would be gained and what might be lost if monarchs are given a threatened 4d status. I’m really worried about the potential losses. Landowners might destroy milkweeds over concerns about regulations, and provisions about pesticides in a 4d ruling could result in strong pushback from agriculture. Going forward, if 4d is in the future, a great deal of thought has to be given to avoid unintended consequences.

There are a couple of other reasons for this flurry of posts – time is short and getting things published takes too long. In time, some of these writings will be published. Right now, I just need to get it out there. Secondly, at 85, I have a lot of things to finish in the time I have left, and it’s not just about monarchs, I have to revisit and finish our work on honey bee mating biology. Those studies yielded some extraordinary findings that still need to be elaborated on to be fully appreciated.

Please see the Monarch Watch Blog at for these recent posts and more:

• Monarchs: Weather and population sizes in the past
• Monarch populations during the Dust Bowl years
• Monarchs: Reaching 50N and beyond
• What data from iNaturalist tells us about the decline and recovery in western monarch numbers from 2020-2022
• The pending decision: Will monarchs be designated as threatened or endangered?
• The Western monarch puzzle: the decline and increase in monarch numbers

7. 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!

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 July 2023, there have been 44,110 Monarch Waystation habitats registered with Monarch Watch! Texas holds the #1 spot with 3,664 habitats and Illinois (3,381), Michigan (3,205), California (2,864), Florida (2,299), Ohio (2,285), Pennsylvania (1,951), Virginia (1,915), Wisconsin (1,911), and New York (1,441) round out the top ten.

You can view the complete listing and a map of approximate locations via

8. Monarch Calendar Project

For those of you participating in our Monarch Calendar project for 2023 (complete details and short registration form at ), observation Period 1 has ended (the final date being June 20th, for those of you north of 35N). Once you have logged all of your observations using whatever format works for you (spreadsheet, notebook, calendar, etc.), please use the appropriate online form to submit your data to us:

2023 Period 1 Submission Forms:

SOUTH (latitude less than 35N)
Form for Period 1 (15 March – 30 April):

NORTH (latitude greater than 35N)
Form for Period 1 (1 April – 20 June):

The second observation period runs from 15 July–20 August in the North and 1 August–25 September in the South. As soon as the fall period ends for all locations, we will send out links for submission of that data to all who have registered.

You may also use the Monarch Watch mobile app to record and submit your observations. Please see

Again, complete details and a link to the short registration form are available at

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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