What’s Happening to the Monarch Butterfly Population?

“Something’s going on in early spring,” a professor said, and researchers are trying to solve the mystery.

Thousands of monarch butterflies gather in the eucalyptus trees at the Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove.
Credit…George Rose/Getty Images

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Western monarch butterflies spend their winters in Pismo Beach and other sites on the central California coast. A few months later, they breed in the Central Valley and as far north and east as Idaho.

But where they go in between remains an open question.

Now, a group of researchers wants the public’s help to solve that mystery.

They would like anyone who spots a monarch north of Santa Barbara this spring to snap a quick picture. The researchers — from Washington State University, Tufts University, the nonprofit Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, and the University of California, Santa Cruz — need photographic evidence, a date and a location to confirm where the monarchs might be living. (Photos and information can be emailed to monarchmystery@wsu.edu or uploaded on the iNaturalist app.)

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