The Xerces Society on Tuesday released the final numbers for its 26th Western Monarch Count.
Volunteers reportedly counted 335,479 monarch butterflies at 272 sites across coastal California and a few spots in interior California and Arizona. The count took place between November 12 and December 4, 2022.
According to the Xerces Society, the greatest number of butterflies was recorded along the Central Coast with more than 130,000 of the insects counted in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. A site owned by The Nature Conservancy in Santa Barbara County had the largest count of 34,180 butterflies. The popular Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove had a count of 24,128 butterflies.
Just a few weeks after the count took place, a series of strong storms hit California. While there was no recount of the butterflies, the Xerces Society says volunteers reported flooding and downed trees at some butterfly overwintering sites. They also reportedly found more monarchs on the ground.
“Small populations are particularly vulnerable to being snuffed out by extreme weather, so we are lucky these storms occurred in a relatively good year,” said Emma Pelton, a conservation biologist at the Xerces Society. “We don’t want to count on luck alone to ensure the survival of the western monarch migration.”
The 2022 tally is seen as an improvement over previous years. In 2020, less than 2,000 butterflies were counted. Nearly 250,000 were counted in 2021. However, in the 1980s, the Xerces Society says the monarch butterfly population numbered in the low millions.