Have you seen any monarchs in the Eastern Sierra lately?
Monarchs are much more than a pretty sight in your garden. Along with bees, birds, and other pollinators, butterflies like the monarch are essential to a healthy environment. From wildflowers to working farms, monarchs and other pollinators keep the Eastern Sierra blooming, year after year. Without them, there would be no new growth.
But pollinator populations everywhere are in decline, impacted by pathogens, parasites, pesticides, and the loss of open spaces. Research shows that monarch populations have declined by 90% in the past 20 years. They are now at significant risk of extinction.
There’s good news, though: you can help bring monarchs back!
Create a Pollinator Garden
One way you can help monarchs is by planting a pollinator garden, blooming with native plants.
Have you been thinking about creating a safe haven for butterflies and other pollinators in your backyard? Right now is the best time to break ground: according to Jaime Pawelek of the UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab, “fall, with its cooler temperatures, shorter days, and imminent rainfall, is the best time to plant a [pollinator] garden in California.”
Want to learn more about ESLT’s Eastside Pollinator Garden Project, which is helping locals in the Eastern Sierra create pollinator gardens of their own? Contact Education Coordinator & AmeriCorps Member, Indigo Johnson, at , or give us a call at (760) 873-4554.
Whether you already have a pollinator garden in place, are considering creating one, or just want to spruce up your landscaping with a few additional plants, we highly recommend planting milkweed to anyone who wants to attract monarchs.
Monarchs rely on milkweed – in fact, their caterpillars will only feed on these plants. So planting milkweed is another critical step you can take to help monarchs.
Become a Citizen Scientist for a Day
Not a green thumb, or don’t have access to a garden plot? There’s still something that each and every one of us can do for monarchs: join the growing local citizen science effort, the Great Basin Monarch and Milkweed Project! It’s easy to do, and it will help researchers who study monarchs in our area. Simply sign up on their website and download the iNaturalist app to your phone. Whenever you see milkweed or monarchs, snap a photo and add your observation to the project. And if you aren’t 100% sure on the ID, don’t worry – other members of iNaturalist will help you to identify the plant or caterpillar using your photos.
You can also assist researchers by monitoring local milkweed patches for monarch breeding. To learn more about “adopting” a milkweed patch and searching the leaves weekly for eggs and caterpillars, contact Rachel Williams, US Fish and Wildlife Service, at
Next spring, biologists and volunteers will be looking for monarch locations to capture and tag monarchs. These tags will allow researchers to learn more about where and how these butterflies are migrating. By participating in the Great Basin Monarch and Milkweed Project and helping monitor milkweed patches, you can help researchers learn more about what we all can do to keep the monarch butterfly around for generations to come.
To learn more about monarchs, the Great Basin Monarch and Milkweed Project, and other steps you can take to help monarchs thrive, please email Rachel Williams at