This question is a frequent and important one. Please keep monitoring even when you don’t find monarchs -- be a hero and report your zero! Here are some of the reasons why.
To obtain a comprehensive picture of the breeding season.
MLMP protocols instruct you to start monitoring as soon as you see milkweed plants in your site, and to keep monitoring until the milkweed has died back. This means you may have some weeks where you are monitoring before or after the monarchs are present in your area. This may feel like wasted time, but in fact, it is critical knowledge that informs our understanding of monarch distribution through space and time! Monitoring regularly for the entire duration when milkweed is present is the only way to know when monarchs arrive and depart, and when breeding activity is occurring. If we start monitoring for eggs and larvae only after we begin seeing monarchs, we may miss their arrival at a site and won’t know with certainty when reproduction began.
Zeros are valuable data!
Zeros are extremely valuable data in science. If we have no data from an area, we cannot assume a zero because we don’t know if monitoring has occurred. Conservation scientists are interested in how and why monarchs use different types of habitat; data that document the absence of monarchs can help us answer the question of why habitats may be more or less suited for monarchs!
Persistence often pays off in the end!
It may feel discouraging when you aren’t finding much, but your data help inform how we go about conserving monarchs! When you go weeks without finding a monarch, it makes it a much more joyful and satisfying occasion to find one. This regularly happens at the MLMP home site near the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus.