At least one monarch butterfly from the greater Genoa area has successfully traveled to Santa Cruz, Calif., thanks to research efforts by citizen-scientist Pat Neyman.
Neyman is studying Nevada’s monarch butterflies at The Nature Conservancy’s River Fork Ranch on Genoa Lane.
Monarchs used to be common in Nevada, but in recent years, their numbers have decreased greatly, the organization said in a press release.
Scientists cite the elimination of milkweed, which is the only plant monarch larvae can feed on. In fact, milkweed is what brought Neyman, a local biologist, to volunteer at the River Fork Ranch. She is part of a nationwide citizen-science endeavor called the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project.
“The stands of narrow-leaf milkweed at the ranch attracted my attention,” she said, “because I was looking for a place to start a several-year project monitoring monarch larval populations.”
The Nature Conservancy has focused on restoring the ranch’s natural habitat and native vegetation, including milkweed.
Neyman sought to learn where the monarchs were spending their winters, since they can’t withstand the freezing temperatures of Carson Valley.
“It may seem unbelievable,” she said, “but it is true, that despite being so seemingly delicate and weighing about what a paper clip weighs, monarchs are capable of migrating thousands of miles.”
Neyman raised and released 64 tagged monarchs last fall. This winter, No. AA186, a male monarch released at the River Fork Ranch on Sept. 19, was spotted in California.
The butterfly was photographed in the Santa Cruz colony by John Dayton, a volunteer who helps monitor monarch colonies up and down the California coast.
Just because one trans-mountain migration has been confirmed doesn’t mean the scientific work is done. The monitoring project in Genoa is scheduled to continue throughout the year.
“We’re very excited that the River Fork Ranch has become a certified Monarch Way Station,” said Duane Petite, Carson River project director for The Nature Conservancy. “We have seeded in more milkweed and hope to enlist more volunteers to help with the monitoring and other projects.”
For more information, or to volunteer, visit nature.org/CarsonMonarchs.