Help the Desert Botanical Garden track Arizona's monarch butterflies this winter

By Katherine Davis-Young
Published: Friday, November 24, 2023 - 1:44pm

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A monarch butterfly
Mónica Ortiz Uribe/KJZZ
A monarch butterfly.

Arizona’s cooler months are when you’re most likely to spot monarchs fluttering around the state, and the Desert Botanical Garden is asking for your help tracking the beloved butterflies this winter. 

Most monarchs choose to spend their winter in California or Mexico, but Natalie Melkonoff with the Desert Botanical Garden’s pollinator conservation team said, “Arizona is sort of in the middle of those two flyways, so collecting data on what our monarchs are doing here is really important to understanding those larger patterns.” 

Melkonoff said Arizona’s winter butterfly visitors seem to have different breeding habits than other populations, but researchers don’t yet understand why.

This winter, the Desert Botanical Garden is asking anyone with a milkweed plant to help track monarch behavior as part of its Desert Refuge project. Citizen scientists can use the Nature's Notebook smartphone app to record observations about caterpillars and butterflies.

"They look at their plants once a week, they record things like, when is it growing? When does it have flowers? When does it have seed pods? And then they’re looking for the monarch as well, so do they see them flying around? They can note specific behaviors if the butterfly is nectaring or mating," Melkonoff said. 

Instructions are at

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