Monarchs have been sighted nectaring on clover in hayfields, laying eggs on young milkweed, and flying by in the sky. It may seem like they are late this year, but that is just because last year they were early and so abundant that everyone took notice. The last weeks of July are their usual time to breed in New England. This may be my favorite time of year.
Last week, Alison Marchione, Upper Valley Land Trust's program director, joined me and a small group of curious people at Up on the Hill Conservation Area to monitor the breeding population of monarchs. Butterflies like to fly during the hottest time of day and their nectar sources are usually found in sunny locations. So we were sweating it out as we made our way from milkweed to milkweed in search of eggs and caterpillars.
We kept track of the number of milkweed plants we checked and tallied up the total number of eggs, caterpillars, and adult monarchs we observed. The data gets entered into an online database for Mission Monarch. This information allows researchers to find out the average number of young monarchs in a specific area. They can use this average of a sample area to estimate the number in a larger area. If the same area is monitored year after year, a graph can be made that represents breeding monarch population changes over time.
Learn more about what we found by checking out UVLT's blog post. There is even a video of Dawn explaining how to do Mission Monarch on your own.
Anyone can contribute to monarch research by reporting observations to one of these online databases: Mission Monarch, Journey North, eButterfly. Taking a picture to upload is helpful to scientists too!