Bakersfield habitat chosen as website to avoid wasting declining monarch butterfly inhabitants Information

Anyone who lived in Bakersfield in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s will likely remember that spotting a beautiful orange and black monarch butterfly was not uncommon.

But when was the last time you spotted a monarch in Bakersfield?

To respond to a steep decline in the western monarch butterfly population, the Panorama Vista Preserve in Bakersfield and seven other locations across California were selected as butterfly resting stations.

The monarch butterfly and pollinator rescue program will plant both milkweed and nectar-rich plants on 50 acres of the reserve under a grant funded by the state Wildlife Conservation Board.

“It’s a monarch butterfly project, but it will also benefit native bees and other pollinators,” said Carolyn Belli, president of the Kern River Corridor Endowment. The foundation owns and manages the 936-acre nature reserve that stretches on either side of the core between Panorama Bluffs and miles of oil fields to the north.

“Monarchs and many other species use vegetation along rivers to reproduce and move through the landscape,” said Erin Hagen, director of science at River Partners, the Chico-based nonprofit that is leading the project at all eight locations .

“By adding monarch-friendly plants such as milkweed and other flowering varieties to the reserve, we can invite monarchs to the area and provide them with great places to find food, rest on their long journeys, and reproduce for the population . “

Hagen compared these eight places – from Butte County in the north to San Diego County in the south – as oases or pit stops for butterflies tired of traveling.

Plans for the effort took off in 2019, but recent and alarming news has brought renewed attention and urgency to the plight of this species.

According to reports from the Associated Press, the number of Western monarchs’ butterflies wintering on the California coast has plummeted to a record low, putting the insects at risk of extinction.

An annual winter census by the Xerces Society recorded fewer than 2,000 butterflies, a massive decrease from the tens of thousands in recent years and the millions that gathered in trees along the California coast in the 1980s.

Early Friday morning, Belli was accompanied by her husband Joe Belli, the reserve’s field manager, and Andy Honig, a member of the foundation’s board of directors.

Honey had already started planting desert milkweed, a bluish-gray shrub, in a small area of ​​the nature reserve.

“I collected the seeds on Rancheria Road,” he said. “There are a number of places where the milkweed grows in Kern County.”

Western monarch butterflies migrate to California from the Pacific Northwest to California every winter, returning to the same places and even the same trees, where they gather to keep warm, according to the AP. The monarchs typically arrive in California in early November and spread across the country as soon as warmer weather arrives in March.

They often travel along the riparian habitat, along rivers like the Kern, said Hagen.

Everyone agrees: the loss of the Western monarch would be a catastrophe and a tragedy. And more needs to be done.

River Partners is looking for more funding and additional locations where these butterfly pit stops can be upgraded and enhanced.

And they will monitor the effectiveness of the project.

But every homeowner can plant milkweed or nectar-rich flora as a sweet invitation to the black and orange beauties, Hagen said.

Seeing monarchs in flight again at Bakersfield could be the ultimate reward.

Reporter Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @semayerTBC.

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