When you get news as good as this, it must be shared. This past week, scientists in Mexico determined that the overwintering monarch butterfly colonies have expanded by a record 144% from year-to-year. I've been guiding monarch butterfly adventures for 16 years now and this news is the best I've heard for quite some time. In fact, a year-to-year increase this big hasn't occurred for over a decade.
And this victory was made even sweeter to me, as I heard the news while guiding a monarch butterfly photography expedition at these very same monarch sanctuaries that were in the news. In fact, after the first day of seeing the El Rosario colony, I said to myself "Court, you know this has got to be something unusual. This is a big year." And then bam, the next day I get the news right from my colleagues at World Wildlife Fund.
It was as if each time we turned the corner into a new part of the forest, the monarch colonies continued. Tree after tree was covered to the point where you couldn't even see the bark underneath the layers of butterflies.
Heeding the advice of fellow scientists in the field, I don't want to paint the picture too rosy, as the story of the monarch migration has been relatively dim in recent years. While this is a dramatic increase, research suggests that we may still be below the historical averages in terms of acreage covered by these overwintering butterflies.
Nevertheless, this annual migration is one of nature's most spectacular displays. A combination of mystique, beauty, and delicacy is juxtaposed with the intense resiliency this small creature exhibits. While it is in the Mexican winter habitat that they are most easy to count, it's their U.S. and Canadian habitat that may play the most critical role for their survival.
And this is where current conservation efforts are targeted. Not coincidentally, this is where you can play a key role in setting up a monarch way station, and provide critical host plants during their summer season. Or, just take it one step at a time and learn how you can grow monarch-friendly plants in your own backyard.
It's a good year for monarchs and let's keep the momentum going. Please keep monarchs in the conversation, and conservation in your mind. And if I can personally help in your quest to become more conservation-minded, please leave a comment below or contact me directly.