“Pacific Grove >> With deep concentration, they direct their gaze up the trees that play host to slumbering butterflies, silently counting the orange insects until they share their tally with neighboring volunteers.
As monarchs flock to the verdant groves along the Central Coast this time of year, so do the volunteers and scientists, some of whom have been counting them religiously for 20 years.
The Xerces Society Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count, which is the oldest and most robust assessment of wintering monarch in California, started Nov. 12 and runs through Dec. 4. It’s one of the many ways the Xerces Society, an invertebrate conservation group, works together with government agencies like U.S. Fish and Wildlife, nongovernmental organizations, scientists, farmers and citizens to study and protect the charismatic monarch butterfly, which has faced substantial declines in the past two decades.
“Monarchs are kind of the pandas of the insect world,” said Emma Pelton, a conservation biologist at Xerces. “We have a lot of beautiful butterflies here in America, but (the monarchs are) bigger and brighter.” Continue reading
By Sukee Bennett