Monarch Conservation Toolbox

Pilot Projects

Milkweeds for Monarchs Citizen Science Study

United States


Agency Type

Target or Affiliated Species or Habitat

Original Language

“Milkweeds for Monarchs is a self-organized pilot project based in Flagstaff, Arizona, propelled by citizen science volunteers” (Hofstetter 2016). Northern Arizona University coordinates this volunteer effort. Its mission is “to use citizen volunteer gardeners to assess the suitability of a range of milkweeds for addition to home gardens and determine their utilization by monarch butterflies at three elevations in Arizona” (Hofstetter 2016).

The need for this project comes from the lack of understanding about which species of milkweed in Arizona are the most suitable hosts for monarch larvae, since there is a wide diversity of milkweed species in the state. Additionally, “the monarch breeding season is complicated in Arizona because of variable elevations and associated plant communities and many climatic microsites. Monarchs migrate through Arizona both in spring and fall to destinations in Mexico, California, and small overwintering sites occur within Arizona” (Hofstetter 2016). The study evaluates milkweed growth and use at three elevations: 1,000, 4,000 and 7,000 feet (~305, 1,219 and 2,133 meters) in order to represent the entire range of elevations in Central Arizona. Ten citizen scientists with a background as Master Gardeners study milkweed at each elevation.

They report monthly on weekly observations of both milkweeds and insects, answering questions on milkweed condition, stage in growth, occurrence of pests, as well as if and when monarchs are sighted (Hofstetter 2016).

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