The information in this state update was provided by Maggie Hirschauer, firstname.lastname@example.org Please contact her for additional information.
Montana is a bit of an outlier among the western monarch states, sitting at the far northern tier of North American monarch range and split by the Continental Divide into distinct western and eastern regions. Yet Montana supports pockets of high-quality milkweed habitats and supports breeding populations of monarchs on both sides of the Divide.
BMP Photo credit Maggie Hirschauer
Montana’s geography and complex topography raise intriguing questions about the source of its monarch breeding population. Western breeding grounds are roughly defined as being west of the Rocky Mountain Divide, while the eastern monarch population’s breeding grounds generally lie in the prairies and badlands to the east.
But just how permeable are these boundaries and how does Montana’s topographic relief influence western and eastern monarch movements and seasonal distributions? And how do Montana’s extensive river systems and rich river valleys of milkweed and nectar plants influence migratory connectivity between the western and eastern populations?
There is much to learn about the relative importance of Montana to the western monarch population, but it is fair to say the contribution, though likely modest, only adds to the species’ viability and resiliency across its western range.
General Information, MT Resources
Planting (and protecting) milkweed and other native nectar sources is one of the best ways to help native pollinators. Both companies below refuse to use insecticides or harmful chemicals in their efforts.
Montana Survival Seed: https://montanasurvivalseed.com
Great Bear Native Plants, Hamilton, MT: https://www.greatbearnativeplants.com
Look to the Xerces Society Milkweed Seed Finder tool to find milkweed further afield: https://xerces.org/milkweed/milkweed-seed-finderResource finder
BMP Stevensville roadside milkweed | photo credit Maggie Hirschauer
MPG Ranch, Missoula, MT: https://www.mpgranch.com
The Bitterroot Monarch Project (2019-2021) documented milkweed and monarch presence in the northern Bitterroot Valley every summer, even as the western population declined. Annual research updates and summaries of monarch sightings can be found at the MPG Ranch website above.
Montana Audubon Center, Billings MT: https://mtaudubon.org/center/
The main facility is landscaped with native plants including showy milkweed. Volunteers monitor this milkweed annually for migrating monarchs.
Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium: https://www.missoulabutterflyhouse.org
Local insect (and butterfly) experts run this non-profit and coordinate amazing education campaigns and outreach efforts. They have a new educational facility and butterfly house in construction.
Monarch Garden Inn, Emigrant MT: http://www.akwildlife.com
Enthusiastic naturalists host a B&B alongside a milkweed waystation and monarch rearing, tagging, and release operations.
Bitterroot Monarch Project Coordinator
BMP Adult feeds | photo credit Jordan Hoffmaster