The Monarchs Are Coming!

First monarch butterfly of 2021 in Oklahoma reported in Antlers.

March 10, 2021

Signs that spring is officially here are popping up in southeastern Oklahoma! The first adult monarch butterfly of 2021 was reported on Sunday, March 7 along US Highway 270 near Antlers, OK by Vonceil Harmon, Oklahoma Department of Transportation Natural Resources Specialist and Oklahoma Monarch and Pollinator Steering Committee Member.

Vonceil reported her monarch sighting to Journey North, a citizen science program that collects monarch sightings and maps them in real-time as waves of migrations move across the continent, including Oklahoma which is centrally located in the monarch migratory path.

“This first sighting on one of Oklahoma’s state highways is an important reminder that many of the visitors using Oklahoma’s roadways may have wings and rights-of-ways can provide ample food, shelter and breeding grounds for the monarch butterfly,” said Katie Hawk, outreach lead for the Oklahoma Monarch and Pollinator Collaborative. “Their populations have plummeted at an alarming rate… And we need all hands on deck to save them. From Enid to Durant and Elk City to Tahlequah, now is the time–before it’s too late­­–for us Okies to get our hands dirty and help save the monarchs.”

In 2020, monarch populations declined 26% and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it finds Endangered Species Act listing for the monarch butterfly is warranted but precluded. This has spurred national conservation collaboration efforts, with over 16 states developing statewide action plans, including Oklahoma, for conserving habitat in their state for this amazing migratory butterfly. The Oklahoma statewide action plan can be found at okiesformonarchs.org/about.

Monarchs found in central and eastern US and southern Canada winter in Mexico. Each spring, these butterflies leave Mexico and fly northward through our great state in search of milkweed plants on which to lay their eggs. Once hatched, caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed. Come fall, monarchs funnel back toward Mexico. Along the way, they find refuge in stopover sights with abundant nectar sources and shelter from harsh weather.

Ready to help save the monarchs? There are many things that Okies can do to help monarchs during their migration! Learn what to plant, where to buy and how to report monarch sightings at okiesformonarchs.org.