Nectar Connectors campaign

This year's Nectar Connectors campaign has come to a close. We hope that you have enjoyed watching the flowers on your plants this year.
Your observations are important for helping us to understand where and when flowers are available for monarchs and other pollinators.

These data will help to shine a light on any potential mismatches that are occurring between pollinators and the plants on which they depend.

We hope that you will join us again next year for the Nectar Connectors campaign! Your reports on the same plants over multiple years are really valuable to help us understand how nectar plants are responding to changes in climate.
What you are reporting on nectar plants
This year, 289 observers reported on Nectar Connectors species, up from 285 last year. These observers submitted data at 201 sites, up from 195 last year. The most observed species across the country were common milkweed ( Asclepias syriaca ), butterfly milkweed ( Asclepias tuberosa ), eastern purple coneflower ( Echinacea purpurea ), blackeyed Susan ( Rudbeckia hirta ), and wild bergamot ( Monarda fistulosa ).

We have 40 Local Phenology Programs tracking Nectar Connectors species this year. The 10 LPPs submitting the most records this year are below. Thanks to all of our LPPs for all of your efforts - every record that you submit is valuable!
The map below indicates the sites where you reported on Nectar Connectors species this year. The colors of the dots indicate when the average first date of open flowers was reported at that site, with earlier dates in yellow and later dates in green. The shape of the dots represents the different genera of nectar plants.
Generally, your reports of first flowers in the Southeast were early or late in the year, corresponding with the time when monarchs are migrating through the region. In the Midwest and Northeast, you reported onset of flowering throughout the spring, summer, and fall. In the West, your reports were generally early in the year.
To get a better idea of how many flowers were available at different times of the year, we can look at the number of individual plants with open flowers by region.
  • In the Southeast, flowers were available throughout the year, with the highest number of plants with open flowers in the summer.
  • In the Great Plains and Midwest, flowers were available during a shorter period between June and October.
  • In the Northeast, flowers were available from March to November but the highest number of plants with flowers occurred in the summer.
  • In the West, flowers were available between April and October.
In addition to reporting whether or not flowers on your plants are open, we also ask you what percent of flowers are open. The graph below shows when you reported 50% or more open flowers. The pattern is consistent with those above - more flowers are available in the summer months, especially in northern regions. Southern regions and the West have flowers more consistently available in the spring and fall.
You can explore these results on our Nectar Connectors Campaign Results dashboard .

What does this mean for monarchs? In the Eastern United States, monarchs migrate north from Mexico in the spring, and subsequent generations eventually reach the northern United States and Canada in the summer. Monarchs then make their migration back south in the late summer and fall. The Western population follows a distinct migration pattern and generally winters in coastal California.

As we found last year, your reports indicate that generally flowers were available for monarchs at locations along their migration route at the time monarchs would need them in a typical year. 

Let's take a look at one region - the Midwest - to see how your reports of nectar plants line up with Nature's Notebook reports of monarchs ( Danaus plexippus ). In the Midwest, you reported common milkweed ( Asclepias syriaca ) open flowers starting in early June, with a peak in late July. This corresponds to when monarchs were reported, starting in late May and peaking in late July. Monarchs continued to be reported after milkweed flowers had ended. Monarchs may be using other nectar sources during that time.
As we see more unusual seasonal climate such as early springs and late autumns, your data will help us to better understand the subtle changes in the timing of flowering from year to year. This will help us to know how nectar sources are shifting, and whether sufficient flowers are available where and when monarchs and other pollinators need them the most.
Did you earn your Nectar Connectors badge this year? See it on your Observation Deck .

We hope that you will join us again next year to continue to report on flowering of your nectar plants.

Thank you for your contributions to this important project!
Erin Posthumus