Monarch tracking by cell phone

monarch butterfly on goldenrod

Monarch butterflies have been slowed by cool weather in their northern migrations this year. Photo by M. Merchant

By all accounts, this is not turning out to be a great year for monarch butterflies.  The NY Times reports the smallest overwintering populations in Mexico in at least two decades, and the cold spring weather is not helping matters.

An interesting animated map is available through the group Journey North showing how this year’s migration compares to the last few years’ migrations.  This kind of data is made possible through ordinary people with cell phone apps that allow anyone to report a monarch butterfly sighting.

GPS based phone apps have incredible potential for invasive species reporting, range and abundance reporting for a variety of organisms. is just one such source for a growing library of apps for these sorts of uses.  If you know of a good app for identifying or reporting insects, let me know.  I will post the best of the ideas as comments to this post.

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