On June 24, Tiffany Muncaster, a summer intern working for the Pollination Pathway Climate Adaptation Initiative, was surveying showy milkweed in the Pend d’Oreille valley when she caught a glimpse of a bright orange butterfly fluttering amongst the milkweeds. “The vibrant orange wings were striking, I couldn’t believe my eyes, it had to be a Monarch,” said Muncaster.

Returning a week later, a Pollination Pathway team was delighted to discover at least 21 monarch larvae happily feeding on young milkweed plants. “This is the fourth confirmed breeding site for Monarchs in the West Kootenay, and the first time Monarchs have been seen here since 2018,” says Valerie Huff, program manager of the Pollination Pathway, a program of the Kootenay Native Plant Society (KNPS).

The western Monarch population has seen precipitous declines in recent years, losing more than 95% of their numbers since the 1980s. Western Monarchs overwinter in California, unlike their eastern cousins who overwinter in Mexico. In the spring, they fly north over several generations, reaching Southern British Columbia. In late August, the Monarchs born here will fly all the way back to California. Numbers in California rebounded this year from an all-time low in 2021, a hopeful sign that there is still time to protect the species. “We are thrilled to celebrate the resilience of this iconic insect,” says Huff. “And we all have a role to play in supporting Monarchs in the West Kootenay.”

Are you as excited about Monarchs as we are? Here’s what you can do:

1. Protect, restore and enhance existing milkweed populations. Monarchs cannot complete their lifecycle without it, and milkweed is in serious decline here in the West Kootenay. Volunteer with KNPS and support the growing local network of monarch way stations. http://kootenaynativeplants.ca

2. Create new habitat by planting showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) and other important nectar plants in your gardens from locally sourced seeds. http://kootenaynativeplants.ca/our-work/milkweed-for-monarchs/

3. Let KNPS know if you observe Monarch activity.

  • Do not disturb the Monarch (in any life phase) but take clear photos and write down a description of what you see. Send this information, along with the date and location, to info@kootenaynativeplants.ca, with “Monarch sighting” in the subject line.
  • If you have milkweed planted in your yard, watch for flying adults and leaf-eating by larvae.
  • Be a citizen scientist and go on a mission for the monarch. https://www.mission-monarch.org/
  • Learn more about monarch butterflies by visiting the Monarch Joint Venture website. (https://monarchjointventure.org)

About the Kootenay Native Plant Society:

The Kootenay Native Plant Society (KNPS) celebrates the rich native flora of the West Kootenay region of British Columbia. We seek to foster an understanding and appreciation of our native plants and to preserve their diversity for future generations. The Pollination Pathway Climate Adaptation Initiative is a five-year KNPS project focused on enhancing plant-pollinator networks and building ecological resilience in the Lower Columbia Region of south-central British Columbia.

Kootenay Native Plant Society