Butterflies are found across the globe in all types of environments, many species make magnificent migrations to different climates for breeding or overwintering. Butterflies experience four exceptional life cycle stages: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly, and the Western Monarch butterfly is famous for its long annual migration.

Butterflies are indicators of a healthy environment, important pollinators, and food sources for other species. Butterflies and Monarchs are also valuable for their intrinsic values and worthy of conservation as the species have been evolving for at least 50 million years and are a highly diverse group of more than 250,000 species making up one quarter of all named species and have been part of human cultural heritage and scientifically studied for the last 300 years. Butterfly research provides important data that is unmatched in a geographic scale and timescale based on areas of research including: navigation, pest control, embryology, mimicry, evolution, genetics population dynamics and biodiversity conservation. The study of butterflies provides important research on climate change and changing conditions.

In North America, where monarchs are most numerous, there are two populations of monarch butterflies, the Eastern Monarch and the Western Monarch. These populations migrate hundreds or thousands of miles from their breeding grounds found across the United States and southern Canada to overwintering grounds in both Mexico and California. Western Monarchs are thought to breed continuously from spring through fall in California, Nevada and Arizona, with later generations traveling north and east into the interior of the continent throughout the summer.

Working on a
Monarch Recovery Project?


Western Monarch in Marin County, photograph by Carlos Porrata

Western Monarch in Marin County, photograph by Carlos Porrata

The Western Monarch butterfly population is in crisis and needs our support so we can ensure these iconic and essential pollinators continue to share this earth with us. Butterflies are indicators of the health of our environment and their decline is alarming.

Marin County experiences a seasonal visitation of Western Monarchs every fall, as the butterflies overwinter in the forested groves along the Pacific Coast. Since 1997, Western Monarchs have been counted by Xerces Society volunteers in an annual Monarch Thanksgiving Count in the villages of Bolinas and Stinson Beach. Sadly, the volunteers began observing dramatic declines each year with a startling crash in 2019.

There has been a 95% decline in Western Monarch populations since the 1980s.
These trends are indicators of a probable extinction risk in the next 20-to-50 years.

This is alarming. Butterflies are indicators of a healthy ecosystem, their decline points to larger factors that have contributed to habitat loss and degradation, pesticide use, unavailability of milkweed and nectar plants, parasites, diseases, predators, and the changing environmental conditions due to climate change. In addition, pressures on the migratory cycles and life cycle stressors are being affected in ways that we are just now figuring out how to understand.


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A coordinated Call to Action is needed to support the monarchs through habitat conservation, planting of native milkweed, removal of harmful pesticides from our environment, a reduction of carbon dioxide, and carbon sequestration to preserve habitat and milkweed to ensure monarch’s future survival. There are important steps for different regions of Marin to help with responding to this crisis.

Marin County residents need to work together to provide a coordinated response effort. Actions of individuals, nonprofits, businesses, and public agencies can help support the population by implementing complimentary response tools.

EAC is developing a report to connect our communities and actions to help western monarchs. The goal of this report is to identify gaps in our regional response based on the Xerces Society’s Call to Action to ensure we are doing all that we can to support recovery of the western monarch population. There are opportunities for diverse groups to respond and support monarch populations in their backyards and EAC’s report seeks to bring people together, provide information, tools, resources, and identify gaps in Marin County’s regional response efforts so that they can be filled to ensure we are doing all we can to support the population to ensure it exists for future generations.

Are You Working on Monarch Conservation and Recovery?
Take our Survey…

In order to fully capture the regional response efforts by the Marin community, EAC needs feedback from everyone including individuals, organizations, businesses, and public agencies who are working on monarch conservation and recovery projects.

These projects include habitat restoration and acquisition, native milkweed tracking and planting, public education on nectar and milkweed plants, planting milkweend and nectrar plants, pesticide use and public education, community science observations, scientific research, and more!

If you are working on monarch conservation, please take our below survey before November 30, 2019 to be included in our report, Marin’s Monarch Movement.