In 2020, fewer than 2,000 western monarch butterflies were counted spending the winter in California. That number has now bounced to more than 247,000. The news was announced on January 25 by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. Data was gathered in the group’s Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count.
Emma Pelton is a biologist at the Xerces Society. She’s excited by the news. But she remains cautious. “It will take multiple more years to understand if this is the beginning of a trend or just a blip,” she says.
The reason for the increase is unclear. And numbers are still lower than they once were. In the 1980s, about 4.5 million monarchs wintered on the California coast and in northern Mexico.