Monarch Watch Blog

Monarch Watch Update January 2024

Wednesday, January 31st, 2024 at 7:04 pm by Jim Lovett
Filed under Email Updates | Comments Off on Monarch Watch Update January 2024

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Greetings Monarch Watchers and Happy New Year to all!

Each and every one of you is an important part of our team and we are very thankful for everyone who supports us through donations, participation in our programs, and other activities that serve our mission to sustain the monarch migration. As we’ve said before, we need to get more plants in the ground – specifically milkweeds and nectar plants that support the breeding population and fall nectar plants that support the migration. The challenge is substantial and difficult to navigate but we must do what we can counter the threats to monarchs and their habitat. We all can create Monarch Waystations, restore habitats, and inspire stewardship in the younger generations. These actions represent our mission at Monarch Watch, and we are grateful for your continued support. We hope you will be with us again this year!

If you have not yet seen our 2023 Monarch Watch Summary, I encourage you to check it out via the Monarch Watch Blog when you have time – after reading this important update, of course πŸ™‚

Included in this issue:
1. Monarch Watch One-Day Fundraising Event
2. Monarch Watch Welcomes a New Director
3. Monarch Population Status
4. Monarch Watch Milkweed Programs
5. Monarch Tag Data & Recoveries
6. Monarch Waystations
7. Send us your photos, videos, stories, and more!
8. About This Monarch Watch List

1. 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 on Thursday, February 15th this year. The event will provide an opportunity for Monarch Watchers all over the globe to come together and show their support of our program. As you may know, we have topped the departmental challenge leaderboard for the last three years, bringing in the greatest total number of gifts of any unit at KU during this event. This is extremely gratifying but not only that – it demonstrates to the entire KU community the substantial reach of our program (well beyond our city, state, and country boundaries) and the incredible support we receive from all of you.

We hope to top the chart once again this year and we need your help! Our 3-yr average number of gifts for this event is 592 and we would love to meet or beat that number. Several Monarch Watchers have stepped up to provide matches or challenges to make your donation go even further. Donations of any amount are appreciated and will push us closer to our goal.

This year, gifts will help get more milkweeds in the ground via our free milkweed programs (described below). Please plan to visit us on Thursday, February 15th to give and we will also email you the direct link on the day as a reminder. Please spread the word about this opportunity and thank you for your interest and continued support!

Additional information about this year’s campaign is available at

2. Monarch Watch Welcomes a New Director

Dr. Kristen Baum, well known for her work on monarchs and pollinators, is now the Director of Monarch Watch. She comes to us from Oklahoma State University, where she was a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology for more than 18 years.

Kristen’s monarch research focuses on the effects of land use and management practices on the distribution and abundance of monarchs, milkweeds, and monarch-parasite interactions. She also has a long-term project focusing on the wing size, body weight, sex ratio, and OE infection status of fall migrants in Oklahoma. She has served on numerous state, regional and national working groups to support conservation efforts for monarchs and other pollinators.

The Monarch Watch Directorship will be supported in part by the Chip and Toni Taylor Professorship in Support of Monarch Watch, an endowment fund established in 2022 when Chip announced that he would be stepping away from the day-to-day operations of Monarch Watch to focus on writing and other projects:

“When close to retirement, I realized that the program was reaching at least 100,000 people a year and that it simply had to continue. I’m pleased to be able to turn the directorship over to Kristen Baum. Kristen is an outstanding scientist, a dynamic and experienced leader with a strong research program. She also has an outstanding record as an adviser to developing scientists.” – Chip Taylor, Founder and Director Emeritus of Monarch Watch

Kristen is excited to join the Monarch Watch team:

“Under Chip’s leadership, Monarch Watch has developed an international reach through research, education and on-the-ground conservation efforts that have benefited the monarch butterfly, as well as other pollinators and wildlife. I’m honored to have been selected to lead Monarch Watch and build on these efforts that have been decades in the making. It has been interesting to learn more about Monarch Watch and I continue to be amazed by Monarch Watch’s reach and impact. There are a lot of behind-the-scenes activities that I think you would be interested in learning more about as well, and we will look for more ways to share these with you soon.” – Kristen Baum, Director of Monarch Watch

You can learn more about Kristen at

3. Monarch Population Status

Eastern Monarch Population
Several key metrics linked to the development of the monarch population and success of the migration suggest that the overwintering numbers may be lower than last year. We expect the official report of the monarch numbers in Mexico to be released in the coming weeks and we will send a brief update at that time with a summary and analysis (and post via the Monarch Watch Blog as well) – stay tuned!

Western Monarch Population
A total of 233,394 butterflies across 256 overwintering sites were counted in the annual Western Monarch Count. This is lower than last year’s count but similar to that in 2021. From a Xerces Blog post about this season’s count: “One highlight was a visitor at the Pacific Grove Monarch Sanctuary in Monterey County, California, spotted a butterfly that had been tagged by the Southwest Monarch Study in northern Utah, meaning it had traveled over 700 miles.”

For additional discussion about historical Western monarch population numbers, please see Chip’s The Western monarch puzzle: the decline and increase in monarch numbers posted to the Monarch Watch Blog last year.

4. Monarch Watch Milkweed Programs

All hands on deck! Plant milkweed for monarchs! Great pollinator habitat includes native milkweeds. Milkweed is the host plant for the monarch butterfly and a nectar source for many other insects. Invite monarchs to your habitat, large or small, with milkweeds from Monarch Watch. Please help us spread the word by sharing widely.

Monarch Watch Milkweed Market

Native milkweeds for gardens or habitat are available for purchase from our Milkweed Market. The minimum purchase is one flat of 32 plants (58 for Texas). If your space is too small for 32 milkweeds, share with your neighbors! Not available in all areas.

Free milkweed for habitat restoration projects

Monarch Watch will once again be distributing free milkweeds for planting in large-scale habitat restoration projects in 2024. Since this program began in 2015, 840,000 milkweeds have been distributed and planted in restored habitat throughout much of the monarch breeding 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. For more information and to apply, please visit:

Free milkweed for schools and educational non-profits

Butterfly gardens are a great educational tool! Schools and educational nonprofits may apply for a free flat of native milkweeds for a public garden. Single flats of 32 plants (58 for Texas) will be distributed to recipients in the spring. The application can be found here:

5. Monarch Tag Data & Recoveries

Many of you have already submitted your 2023 season monarch tag data to us via mail, our online submission form, or our mobile app – thank you! If you haven’t submitted yours yet (even for previous years) please do so at your earliest convenience. Please review the “Submitting Your Tagging Data” information on the Tagging Program page at

There is a large “Submit Your Tagging Data” button on our homepage 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 record and submit your data via the Monarch Watch mobile app (iOS & Android).

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

As a reminder, tag recoveries from Mexico are typically reported to us in February/March and posted in April/May, as soon as everything has been verified. Tag recoveries within the U.S., Canada and northern Mexico are typically reported online in February. Once updated, you will be able to check your tag codes against the lists published on the Tagging Program page at

6. 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 and nectar plants. 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 2024, there have been 46,102 Monarch Waystation habitats registered with Monarch Watch!

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

7. Send us your photos, videos, stories, and more!

We are always looking for monarch photos, videos, stories and more for use on our website, on our social media accounts, in our publications, and as a part of other promotional and educational items we distribute online and offline to promote monarch conservation and Monarch Watch.

There are several ways you can send us your favorite files (please only submit your own materials) and all of the methods below are accessible via

1. Main submission form at
This is the form we prefer you use as it is the most comprehensive and allows you to provide complete information.

2. Quick uploader for photos and videos at
Note that this method does not allow you to include contact or other information.

3. If you have issues using either of the tools above you may also email your submission to us at but please include everything we ask for on the main form by copying/pasting the information below into your email message (or use it as a guide).

Email address:
Do you want to be credited when we use your materials, when feasible?
Name as you would like it to appear in credit:
Description of materials or other comments (for photos and videos this should include an approximate date of capture and location):

Please note that by sharing materials with Monarch Watch you agree to the statements provided at regarding their origin and use. Thank you!

8. 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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