Their distinctive black and orange markings make monarch butterflies hard to miss — if you're lucky enough to encounter one.
Thanks to a triple threat of habitat loss, pesticide use and climate change, monarchs are considered a species at risk, which is why a local nature preservation organization is asking New Brunswickers to keep an eye out for them, and then report any sightings.
The Nature NB initiative is part of a joint monarch monitoring blitz that happens every year at this time in Canada, the United States and Mexico.
This year, it begins on Friday, July 23, and runs till Aug. 1, just before the butterflies make the 5,000-kilometre journey to the mountain forests of Mexico.
Alysha McGrattan, an education co-ordinator with Nature NB, says New Brunswick is in the northernmost range of where monarchs travel every summer before flying south, so having "eyes on the ground" here is crucial.
Monarchs can typically be found in gardens and milkweed patches and will only lay their eggs on milkweed, McGrattan said in an interview with Information Morning Saint John.
"So it's very important to know where the milkweed patches are and how they're doing … and one of the problems is we don't have a good understanding of where the milkweed patches are," she said.
"Without knowing that, it's really hard to know how to protect them."
Milkweed patches are under threat from mowing and pesticide use, and the loss of that habitat further endangers the already-precarious monarch numbers.
McGrattan said New Brunswickers who want to participate in the tracing initiative can participate either in community survey events or by doing their own solo ventures, surveying milkweed patches that grow in the wild and counting the monarchs and caterpillars.
If you prefer the DIY option, Nature NB will provide training at a free webinar at 3 p.m. today, on its Facebook page. The group will also make the video available afterwards.
You can watch for monarch visits in your own garden as well, particularly if you have "swamp milkweed," which has a showy pink flower and thin, long leaves.
Sightings can be reported to mission-monarch.org.
Nature NB will hold several community survey events in the days ahead, at the following locations:
Saturday, July 24:
Family/kids survey at Saint John Public Gardens, 1 to 2 p.m.
Family/kids survey at Irving Nature Park, 3 to 4 p.m.
Monday, July 26:
York Arena, Fredericton, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, July 27:
North Riverfront Trail, Fredericton, 6 to 7 p.m.
Wednesday, July 28:
Hammond River, French Village, 6 to 7 p.m.
Thursday, July 29
Nashwaaksis Stream Nature Park, Fredericton, 10 to 11 a.m.
Lakeside Road, Hampton 6 to 7 p.m.