The data collected in the field will be used by researchers to draw conclusions on monarchs’ preferred breeding habits. If these conclusions are to be accurate, it is very important that the data be collected properly.
To make sure that the data you collect are as useful as possible, keep these golden rules in mind.
* Rules followed by an asterisk apply only if your site contains too many milkweed plants to count and examine individually.
Collect data regularly
The more the data are collected regularly, the more reliable they are. The ideal is to visit your site at the same time once a week, on the same day and at the same time. If you can manage it, that’s great!
If you can’t be that consistent, don’t worry, all data are useful. We want to know what’s happening on your site, and if you can visit it at least four times over the summer, that will give us a good idea.
Select plants at random*
Sometimes it’s tempting to cheat a bit and examine nice-looking milkweed plants where you think you can find monarch eggs and caterpillars. But if you choose these attractive plants all the time, you can overestimate the number of monarchs on your site. Follow the instructions carefully, and you can always come back to take more observations once you’ve collected your data.
Take the time to look closely
Monarchs are very good at hiding. Check every leaf (underneath and on top!), flower and fruit on the milkweed plant for eggs and caterpillars. You don’t want to miss anything!
Make sure you count the right thing!
Even the most experienced observers can make mistakes. It’s not always easy to recognize a monarch egg or to distinguish between the different larval instars! So take the time to look closely at the specimens you find, and don’t hesitate to take photos to confirm your identifications. Remember that other species of insects, as well as their caterpillars, also live on milkweed plants. Not everything you see is necessarily a monarch.
Ask for help
Questions? Feel free to consult the Help section of the website. And if you can’t find the answer there, contact us. We’ll be pleased to help you. It’s always better to ask questions than to submit faulty data.