Monthly Archives: May 2015

Got Milkweed?

Western monarch butterflies, like those in the eastern part of North America, are in trouble. Their populations have declined sharply in the last twenty years.

Monarch butterfly Photo courtesy of the Xerces Society

Monarch butterfly
Photo courtesy of the Xerces Society


In Washington, the western monarch (Danaus plexippus plexippus) and its host plant milkweed (Asclepias sp.) are found only east of the Cascades. In western Washington, we have no native species of Asclepias. And… no milkweed, no monarchs.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and partners are attempting to reverse the downward population trend of these big orange butterflies, but we don’t know enough about where western monarchs spend their summers.

A team of biologists and GIS analysts from the USFWS and the Xerces Society are working to address the data gaps by collecting observations and using them to create models of habitat suitability for milkweed species and for western monarchs.

And this is where you might come in…

MIlkweed (Asclepias speciosa) Photo by Ben Legler, all rights reserved

MIlkweed (Asclepias speciosa)
Photo by Ben Legler, all rights reserved

Ashley Taylor with the Xerces Society and Madeline Steele with USFWS are asking observant folks to report observations of milkweed and monarchs.

If you, or people you know, have past observations or can begin collecting information on monarch butterflies or milkweed this spring, Ashley and Madeline would appreciate hearing from you.

The western monarch has already begun its migration from the coast of California and Mexico, so now is the time to be on the lookout. Knowing where milkweed grows is key to knowing and understanding where the monarchs migrate and breed and how to help them thrive.

If you observe monarchs or milkweed you can report this information for the study in either of two ways:

  • Contact Madeline or Ashley and they can send you an Excel spreadsheet to fill out and return via e-mail.

Monarch Migration Map