Mission Monarch 2020

Last weekend Programs Director Alison joined with Sullivan County Conservation Districts Education and Outreach Specialist Dawn for our second annual Mission Monarch. Mission Monarch is a week long, North America Wide monarch monitoring blitz! On Saturday morning we gathered at Up on the Hill Conservation Area in Charlestown, NH where our new citizen scientists took a crash course in all things monarch.

Then we headed into the field to count common milk weed plants and inspect each one for monarch eggs and caterpillars. During our forty five minutes of searching we checked 146 common milkweed plant (and that wasn’t even all of them!) On those plants we found 10 caterpillars and 13 eggs! We also saw 3 adult monarchs flying around.

Monarch Egg attached to the bottom of a milkweed leaf. Notice the off-white color of the egg. This is one way to tell the difference between the eggs and milkweed sap, which is pure white.

The Mission Monarch blitz runs until August 2nd. If you want to collect data for Mission Monarch in your own area, visit their site and follow the 4 simple steps. You can continue to collect data throughout the summer and fall, not just this week.

In this video, Dawn explains how to easily participate in Mission Monarch at home. Whether you have a field to roam in, milkweed in your gardens, or just a side of the road to walk on, Monarchs are out there for you to find!
Colloquially we had heard and observed ourselves that there seem to be fewer monarchs around. Our monitoring found this to be true. Last year was a banner year for breeding monarchs in the Northeast flyway. Our egg and caterpillar numbers for the same week last year were much higher, we inspected 256 plants and found 101 eggs and 49 caterpillars and 15 adults during the Mission Monarch Blitz.

First Instar caterpillar fresh from its egg. A caterpillars first meal is often the egg that recently covered it.

When asked why this might be, Education and Outreach Specialist Dawn said, “There are a lot of factors that affect the breeding population each year. It is possible the drought in June made it so not many milkweed grew up on the east coast, so the adults flew along the midwest flyway where milkweed was more abundant. Michigan to the Dakotas seem to have a large breeding population this year. It is actually predicted that the overwintering population in Mexico this year will be larger than last year.”
Signing up for the Monarch Watch Newsletter is a great way to learn more about what is going on with monarchs.

Citizen Scientists monitoring milkweed plants for Monarch eggs and caterpillars at Up on the Hill Conservation Area