6 ways you can protect the western monarch | Cal Parks

6 ways you can protect the western monarch

Published: November 15, 2021

Each winter, the monarch butterfly makes its way to the Pacific coast in California and Baja, Mexico to overwinter. These are areas that are warm enough for them to spend the winter without freezing, but cool enough for them to not use too much energy.  

In the past, millions of monarchs have made their way to California to overwinter. However, last year, there were less than 2,000. This loss is due to many factors including climate change, loss of overwintering habitat, pesticides, and more.  

Monarch cluster at Natural Bridges State Park, November 2021.

The western monarch needs your help to protect their migratory path and overwintering sites. Here are 6 ways you can help protect the western monarchs overwintering in California:  

1. Planting nectar plants – If you live on the California coast, planting nectar plants provides the western monarch with the nectar resources to make it through the winter and give them a boost to prepare for migration. 

2. Do not plant non-native milkweed, especially tropical milkweed – These milkweeds can harbor large populations of OE which is a protozoan parasite that disrupts the lifecycle of the western monarchs and causes infected individuals to die.  

Baccharis glutinosa (Coyote Bush)

3. Plant a diverse array of native flowering plants – Help provide nectar resources along the migratory pathway of the western monarch by planting native flowering plants.  

4. Plant native California milkweed – If you live 5 miles from overwintering sites, planting milkweed native to California can help support breeding habitats for the monarchs and support their future generations too.  

Asclepias californica, (California milkweed) | By Marshal Hedin - http://www.bio.sdsu.edu/pub/spiders/Atyp2003/Atyp2003.html, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1102453

5. Volunteer with California State Parks Foundation – In early December 2021 and January 2022, we will be hosting 4 volunteer workdays at Natural Bridges State Park and Lighthouse Field State Beach. These parks, located in Santa Cruz County, are essential overwintering sites for the western monarch. Learn more and register to volunteer here!  

6. Donate to help protect the monarchs – This Giving Tuesday, you’ll have a chance to help this iconic species and double your gift! Your contribution will go twice as far to help protect plants and wildlife in California state parks, and ensure monarch butterflies are protected for years to come. Make your donation now! 

Western monarch at Natural Bridges State Park, November 2021.

Bonus action: Help us raise awareness and encourage your friends and family to take steps to protect the western monarch! Use our social media toolkit to share your love and support for the western monarchs

We hope you will join us in protecting the western monarch this #GivingTuesday and beyond!