The information in this state update was provided by Virginia Rivers,

Please contact her for additional information about the update.



Idaho, like other western states, is experiencing another season of very low monarch sightings.  Nevertheless, we continue to look forward to better years, and we continue to prepare for them. Agency experts and personnel, (both government and non-government), educators and researchers, and citizen scientists work to increase milkweed abundance and share information.  The cooperation amongst and between these entities has never been better.

Several recent sightings around the Treasure Valley are helping to maintain a hopeful attitude and inspire us to do more on habitat restoration.  Kristin Lohr, biologist at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Boise was able to capture this healthy adult photo in early August in a garden toward the south end of the Treasure Valley.

Dave Hopper is a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Boise, Idaho.  He is no stranger to providing milkweed seeds, seedlings and plants to all takers, and has found forever homes for hundreds of plants over the last several years.

This year Dave’s efforts are a good example of interagency cooperation in the all-important effort to restore habitat for monarchs.  Boise City Parks Department’s Kristin Gnojewski, Community Volunteer Specialist, sent out the word to friends and contacts in the community that she wanted to add milkweed plants to a few parks that could benefit from more than were currently there.

Dave to the rescue!  He provided Kristin with 70 showy milkweed plants and 10 swamp milkweed plants that he raised.  They will be planted in one or more of the following parks:  Spaulding Ranch Pond, Terry Day Park, and Mariposa Park. 

Thanks so much, Kristin and Dave!



Our citizen scientist story for Idaho this month made a lot of us very happy, because monarch sightings have been few and far between for the last two or three years.  This gives us hope!

Eileen Thuesen is our featured person because she was able to contribute successfully to the monarch population by interacting with government agencies, institutional organizations, and other citizen scientists.  It’s a good example of how cooperation can work for the benefit of the monarch population.

Eileen learned in an Idaho Master Naturalist about a monarch butterfly workshop hosted by Idaho Fish and Game that was presented by Monarch Joint Venture. At this class, milkweed seedlings were available to participants for free.  Those plants provided the start to her milkweed patch.

In early June, while working out in her garden, she noticed a female monarch laying eggs on one of her milkweed plants.  Six eggs were laid that day, and five more were laid the following day.  MJV instructors said that monarch sightings of any stage could be posted on a map on the Journey North webpage, which is maintained by a citizen science program at University of Wisconsin-Madison.  She posted the information on June 10th and 11th.

About 5 days following her posted photograph, Dave Hopper, biologist from the US Fish and Wildlife Service office in Boise, saw her information and contacted Eileen to ask if she wished to raise monarchs to the adult phase and then tag them for the Washington State University migration study of Professor David James.  Her response was an enthusiastic yes!

By June 19th, Dave had provided her with two home-made mesh-windowed cages: one for rearing the larvae, and the other with a small wooden bar across the top for a protected eclosure area. Over the next few days, a few of the larvae disappeared, so when I contacted her for info about her sightings, I offered to loan her a large, tightly seamed enclosure. 

On July 18th, I came to Eileen’s house to offer a bit of moral support for her first tagging.  She was definitely very adept at the process and joyfully released four beautiful, healthy adults (one male and three females). On the morning of July 19th, the last chrysalis eclosed and was tagged and released late that day.


During this process of raising, tagging and releasing monarchs, Eileen shared the process and photographs with friends, three of whom are now inspired to start their own milkweed patches.

Note from Eileen:  “I would like to thank Dave Hopper of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Virginia Rivers, Idaho liaison for Western Monarch Advocates, for putting me on the road to this incredible experience, and for all of their expertise, encouragement and patience with my questions.”

By July 5th, the older larvae were in a J-shape prior to pupation.  By July 7th, all seven remaining larvae had pupated, and were then transferred to Dave’s cage with the pupation set-up.

Hollie Leavitt is an Associate Professor of Biology at the College of Western Idaho.  She has a master’s degree in pollination biology from Boise State University and has been fascinated with monarchs since she first found their brightly colored caterpillars as a 6-year-old.  Recently remarried, she spent her honeymoon at the El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Preserve near Angangueo, Mexico.

Hollie has spoken on monarchs at many community outreach events in the Boise area, and has engaged her students in milkweed seed planting events with agency groups.  In 2018 she presented a two-hour talk at Boise State University’s Osher program, which will be back by popular demand in the Spring 2021 semester.  Osher in Boise has recently converted to a completely online curriculum, so if anyone in another state would like to sign up for Hollie’s Osher talk, you can connect with Osher via the link below.

Hollie has written manuals on rearing monarch butterflies for research and educational purposes for both the Advocates for Idaho Monarchs and Southern Oregon Monarch Advocates, and acted as a consultant on a monarch butterfly rearing program that was begun at Snake River Correctional Institute in 2018.




The town of Salmon, Idaho may be famous for its namesake river, but lately, monarch butterflies have put it on the map. Through a community art project called the Salmon Butterfly Effect, artists and volunteers wielding a vision and colorful paint created a spectacular mural in downtown Salmon this spring featuring the monarch butterfly and its milkweed host plant.


The collaborative project was helmed by the Salmon Arts Council, Salmon Valley Stewardship, Salmon School Garden, and Lemhi Regional Land Trust, as a creative outlet to show community support and solidarity during the COVID-19 crisis. As the project announcement states, “From the isolation of its chrysalis comes the growth and transformation to a beautiful butterfly. Let’s use this time of social distancing to spread some spring joy and beauty to our community.”

In addition to the mural, the Salmon Butterfly Effect Project engaged kids to paint, craft, or color a butterfly, offering art kits to those needing art supplies. Kids were asked to place their butterfly in a window, on a door, in their yard, or anywhere people could see it so all in the community could all be part of something beautiful. Kids were also encouraged to take a photo and share it on social media via #butterflyeffect or #salmonartscouncil.


To learn more about this engaging project celebrating the iconic monarch butterfly and its Idaho connections, email

Three government agencies came together to establish a pollinator garden at one of the rest stops on I-84. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and Idaho Transportation Department’s District 4 Office worked together to make this happen for the benefit of all pollinators in Idaho.

Partnerships like this are increasing to take advantage of combined knowledge and resources that one partner alone might not have. This year, the Bliss Rest Area on I-84 in Idaho is the “buzz” with pollinators, demonstrating to the traveling public what is possible in an arid region of Idaho.

How the partnership implemented the concept/plan: After removal of sod and weeds, site preparation included, soil excavation, topsoil addition with a mulch/soil amendment, and a drip irrigation system was added. Drip irrigation is used to help plants establish during the first couple of years and guarantee soil rooting. Gravel pathways help move visitors through the pollinator garden.

Native plant materials used consisted of mostly forbs and grasses and a few shrubs, carefully chosen to fit the arid environmental conditions and provide pollinator habitat.

These include:

  • Mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius)

  • Rubber Rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa)

  • Goldenrod (Solidago Canadensis)

  • Bee Balm/Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

  • Sulpher-flower buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum)

  • Showy milkweed (Aclepias speciosa)

  • Mountain Ash (Sorbus acuparia)

  • Basin wildrye (Leymus cinereus)

  • Sand dropseed (Sporobolus cryptandrus)

  • Indian ricegrass (Achnatherum hymenoides)

  • Giant purple sage (Salvia pachyphylla)

  • Showy goldeneye (Heliomeris multiflora)

  • Hoary Townsend's daisy (Townsendia incana)

  • Munroe's/Gooseberry globemallow (Sphaeralcea munroana/grossulariifolia)

  • Firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii)

  • Royal (sagebrush) penstemon (Penstemon speciosus)

  • Sharpleaf (sand dune) penstemon (Penstemon acuminatus)

  • Littleflower penstemon (Penstemon procerus)

  • Broom snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae)

  • Threadleaf Giant Hyssop (Agastache rupestris)

  • Tufted evening primrose (Oenothera caespitosa)

  • Desert fernbush (Desert sweet) (Chamaebatiaria millefolium)

Research projects that culminated in publications by Beth Waterbury, et al, and Leona Svancara, et al, are the embodiment of cooperation between agencies, educational institutions, and citizen scientists.  Read the summaries and details below for a window into what the experts are doing and sharing in Idaho!  If you want to know where the monarchs and milkweeds are, check out the map attachment.


Beth Waterbury, Ann Potter and Leona K. Svancara


Up until a few years ago, significant gaps in knowledge of distribution of monarchs and their milkweed host plants existed for vast areas of the western U.S. This included Idaho and Washington, states at the northern inland tier of western monarch breeding range. Prompted by concerns about western monarch declines and existing knowledge gaps in their states, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife initiated a study in 2016-2017 with objectives to (1) determine statewide distributions of monarchs and milkweeds, (2) characterize monarch breeding habitats, (3) identify primary threats to monarchs and their natal habitats, and (4) develop management recommendations based on study findings.


The 2-year study generated 3,616 milkweed observations (ID=2,875; WA=741), a 400% increase in the pre-project dataset. Milkweeds occurred in all 16 climate divisions and 52 of 65 (80%) counties within the 2-state study area, with first records for numerous counties. The study also documented 842 new breeding season monarch records (ID=615; WA=227) distributed across all 16 climate divisions, in 44 of 65 (68%) counties (37 of which were first county records for breeding monarchs), at elevations from 0 to 5,531 ft.  (Figure 3)


The most productive natal habitats for monarchs were native or naturalized grassland-wetland habitats managed as state wildlife management areas, national refuges, and national grasslands. Habitats with co-occurrence of showy and swamp milkweeds were especially productive, providing extended phenology and nectar resources for breeding and migrating monarchs. Primary threats to milkweed and monarchs in ID/WA were invasive plant species, herbicides, and improperly-timed mowing.


The study presents management recommendations and research needs to address ongoing threats and knowledge gaps in ID/WA with the goal of conserving monarch natal habitats and migratory connectivity across the West.

  • Continue to protect and beneficially manage known monarch breeding and migratory habitats and identify and assess other similarly important areas for long-term protection.

  • Protect monarchs and their habitats from pesticides, particularly widespread herbicide use.

  • Use milkweed and breeding monarch habitat suitability models to target suitable areas for conservation work.

  • Fund and conduct research to further address monarch/milkweed data gaps; determine characteristics of monarch breeding and migratory habitats that promote reproductive performance and survivorship; and investigate the type, prevalence, and population impact of predation, parasites, and disease on all monarch life stages.

Citizen scientists can help fill the “data gap” research need by reporting sightings of monarchs and milkweeds to the Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper website.


This study was supported by many partners including US Fish & Wildlife Service, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Assistant Biology Professor Dusty Perkins of College of Western Idaho, and dozens of citizen scientists from across Idaho and Washington.

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received a petition to list the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Their decision is due December 2020.

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