Yesterday, I spotted my first Monarch Butterfly of the season! Today, I reported it to Journey North. Journey North is a website for Citizen Scientists, like myself, to report observations in nature that help scientists study naturally occurring phenomena. Those phenomena related to Monarch Butterflies are:
- The first Monarch (adult) sighting of the season
- Any Monarch Sighting
- The first eruption of milkweed for the season
- Monarch Eggs
- Monarch Caterpillars
- Fall Roosts
Monarchs are not the only species on which you can report. There is a who host of them. For instance, I have also reported on milkweed and hummingbirds. The sighting list includes everything from the first run of Maple Tree Sap in the Spring to Gray Whales in the Fall. The sighting and reporting site is set up into seasonal categories – those you’d see in the spring and those you’d see in the fall. This is known as phenology or the seasonal timing of life cycle events (Journey North, 2019).
I’ve been involved in Monarch Conservation for 16 years! Since 2006, I have tracked them and reported my sightings to Journey North. This method of recording, sharing to a public data collection site, allows me to go back and look at the results with phenological eye. Has climate changed in 13 years? Yes. Has available habitat changed in 13 years? You bet it has! Has the Monarch species encountered sustainability issues over the last 13 years! Again, a resounding yes!
When I look at these numbers that indicate I saw a monarch last year, just about the same day but the year before (2017) did not see one until the weekend of July 4th, it makes me ponder. Why? Perhaps, it is because we have made progress with increasing awareness regarding the trouble this species is having. Perhaps, more people are planting habitat for Monarchs and pollinators in general. Perhaps, it is a fluke. I do not think so. I like to think that the education being provided by non-profits, garden guru’s, and true scientists, along with increased media coverage are all helping the Monarch’s quest to remain alive and able to complete one of the greatest migrations known to man.
It never fails to excite me when I see my first monarch of the spring season. This year I was on a walk with a friend when I saw it. I actually jumped for joy, shouting and pointing like a four year old! I think we’d all do well to remember that sense of joy and wonder that I am able to feel each spring when I see these black, orange, and white butterflies return to places I, and others, have provided.
Mother nature used to provide these places (habitat) on her own. But, humankind interfered, destroying habitat and deleting the contiguous path of food and shelter than helps the Monarch to migrate. Green interfered when large swaths of forest was surreptitiously cut down in the Sierra Madre’ Mountains of Central Mexico!
Now, humankind is rallying around this iconic and important insect to ensure its place in our natural world. I urge you to learn about the Monarch this year if you have not already. Then, I challenge you to take something you learned and act upon it. Join a local or national conservation group, volunteer for some of the same, create habitat in your yard or help others create habitat in your community.
So, when that first Monarch Butterfly crosses your path this spring, think about what you can do for it or for another species you care about keeping in our natural world. We interfered with habitat, now it is up to us to try and provide what we took away. Plant both native milkweed for the egg and larval stage of the Monarch Butterfly and nectar plants (flowers) for the adult! A simple stand of common milkweed plants will provide both!
Long Live the Monarchs!
Please note all text and photos are copyright by Carol Labuzzetta, unless otherwise noted. No permission to copy or distribute without sole expression of the author.