The Thanksgiving monarch count for the western population showed a significant increase from last year, with the number counted being 50 times higher than in 2020. Last year was a devastating year with only 2000 monarchs counted, so it sees like time for celebration Are they back from the brink of extinction? It’s too early to tell. While 100,000 butterflies sounds like a lot, you have to look at the big picture. In 1991, the count was 1,300,000, so 100,000 isn’t very many. It’s still only half of what it was even 5 years ago. The count will not be final until January.
We ask ourselves, “What happened this year?” It’s all a matter of speculation because there are so many factors involved. It may be that the weather was better, with a warm summer and cool fall in the breeding grounds of CA and Mexico. It could be the difference in timing and pattern of CA wildfires. It could be that some of the Eastern population found their way west. Or it could be just dumb luck.
It’s not in the least uncommon for the population of any insect to make a big bounce from one year to the next. The answer is in the trends over many years.
So while we hope that this is cause for cautious optimism, we won’t party just yet. We need to keep restoring habitat, planting milkweed, nectar plants and making our environments more butterfly friendly. If we all work together, the chances are much better that we will get to have that party.