Projects/Our Work

Help us Track the Monarchs!

Many Monarch observers in Northern California have reported a significant change in Monarch behavior beginning in the early summer of 2020.  Instead of migrating inland from coastal areas, and heading north, many Monarchs remained in the Bay Area and surroundings, nectaring, breeding and laying eggs.  This continued into the fall and winter months when they have typically gone into diapause and migrated to the coastal overwintering sites.  In addition to the changes in Monarch behavior, more people undertook rearing caterpillars in protected settings.   In prior years the total Monarch population has been most easily counted while in the overwintering sites.  The Xerces Society has been gathering data during regular Thanksgiving and Christmas counts going back to 1997.  The count has been in steady decline since a high at that time of 1.1 million butterflies.  In 2020, the count at the overwintering sites plummeted to less than 2000 individuals, yet there are still significant reports of Monarchs active in the Bay Area and surroundings.  No one knows what this unprecedented behavior indicates, and data is needed to begin to understand the change.  Since the Monarchs are no longer concentrated at the coast where they are easily counted, new observers are needed across Northern California.   The Pollinator Posse, based in Oakland and advocates for all things pollinator, is working to gather this data.  Citizen volunteers are needed to step up and share their observations.   If you would like to help, please get involved in the following ways.

Starting with 2021, we are seeking additional reporters both on a regular (monthly) basis and/or one time reports.  If you would like to be a part of this research project, please provide your observations/experiences at Monarch Survey 2021.  Although the survey is somewhat lengthy, you only need to fill in the items which you observed. A lack of observations is just as important as sighting.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact Terry Smith at or fill out the contact form on the Pollinator Posse website.

Help Bring Back the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly the the East Bay Hills!

The spectacular Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly looks tropical but it’s native to the East Bay hills! It is large- up to 5 inches wide; and once you’ve seen one, you will never forget it. The reason we don’t see them very often is that its host plant is hard to find. Its caterpillars will only eat the California Pipevine, which grew mostly in the creekbeds. Since we have either covered or developed most areas near creeks, this plant is less common. If you have the space and the right environment to grow California Pipevine, either in your yard or in a park you steward, please join our effort to restore the habitat for this stunning butterfly, known to scientists as Battus philenor.

The California Pipevine (Aristalochia californica) is a deciduous native. It favors but is not limited to riparian environments. It starts out slowly but with the right conditions, will carpet the ground or climb up into trees- growing vines 20’ or longer. It likes its roots in shade, and vines in part shade to sun.


  • Have the appropriate environment for this large vine
  • Buy some plants (usually about $10 depending on size)
  • Be patient- there’s no guarantee you’ll get butterflies
  • Be willing to document and report progress

For more information or to join the effort, contact Wendy Tokuda at:

This is a project of the “Pollinator Posse”, an organization started at Lake Merritt Gardens to encourage pollinator-friendly gardening for bees and butterflies—particularly monarchs.


  • Sal Levinson propagates pipe vine and sold us 100 plants leftover from the big UC Botanical Garden Plant Sale for a song
  • 18 of you have purchased 56 plants for yourself and friends- most in private gardens but some to plant in open spaces
  • East Bay Regional Parks District Botonist Michelle Hammond is working with some volunteers to plant the vine in 4 parks and steward them. The district will buy those plants from Native Now
  • City of Oakland Environmental Stewardship Div. loves the project and I will be exploring possibilities with them to plant in some open spaces. Have plants in 2 city open spaces.
  • I have met two people in the East Bay with larvae on mature plants. Occasionally, they may need foster parents for larvae.


I am hoping most of you will document your plants and butterflies so we can keep track of our progress and deepen our impact:


  1. Please try to record your plants at Eddie Dunbar set our project up!
  2. Please record your plants there when you put them in the ground. Indicate it is a cultivated plant unless it is wild. If you need instructions, contact myself or Eddie for help. Our intention is to record
  3. If you get larvae, or if you have larvae, please document on Tim Wong’s project page:


  • Tiny plants grown from seed will need water and a close eye for awhile. Sal Levinson says it’s beneficial to transfer them to a larger pot and let their roots develop before setting out. I will put her instructions on the web page.
  • We will be planting 6 plants in each large site in the East Bay Regional Parks to encourage a colony of butterflies

Download the pipevine flyer PDF

Lu’s Memorial Pollinator Garden

Since 2010, significant portions of the Gardens at Lake Merritt have been converted from lawn to pollinator habitat. This portion was planted honors the memory of Lucille Rocha and offer nectar and host plants for pollinators. A tranquil Seed Fountain quenches the thirst of the fluttering Monarchs which now grace Oakland in growing number. Our volunteers cull habitat for caterpillars  and our Butterfly Fostering program offers local youth the chance to witness the miraculous metamorphosis in their own homes and release the emergent butterflies, fulfilling Lu’s final wish.

Veterans Memorial Building Garden

On September 10, 2011, in commemoration of 10th Anniversary of 9/11, volunteers established this commemorative plot beautifying Oakland’s Veterans Memorial Building. Local vets recruited by The Mission Continues worked alongside community members to get this garden ships and Oakland’s mayor visited the site to thank all of the participants.

The Bee Hotel

The Bee Hotel (Gardens at Lake Merritt) With a design by Oakland City Carpenter, Troy Bally, inspired by Paris’s own bee hotel, our Hotel “opened” Earth Day 2013. Native bees dwell in wood and holes bored into the Hotel’s blocks offer the insects shelter to nest and lay their eggs. Native bees, their behaviors and the challenges they face differ greatly from those of hive-dwelling honey bees and bumblebees. All bees however are unsurpassed as Pollinators– so saving as many as possible requires knowing that all bees are not created equal.

Bee Hotel at the Lake Merritt Gardens

Oakland Fire Station #1 Pollinator Garden

Oakland Fire Station #1 - 9/17/2013
Pollinator Pathways planting event.

This Pollinator Pathways way station in West Oakland (17th St and MLK) was designed by a neighborhood resident and funded by Kaiser Permanente and the National Corporation for Service and Volunteerism. City officials including the Fire Chief joined volunteers to  spruce up the site at 17th St  and MLK Way on September 17, 2013 and celebrated the connection between first responders and the community.

Dragonfly Habitat at the Cascades

California’s multi-year drought prompted Park Supervisor and Posse founder Tora Rocha to upgrade the Gardens at Lake Merritt’s 60’s-era Cascades water feature with a filtration system. Dragonfly expert Kathy Bigelow-Teller advised local Eagle Scout NAME in this Badge-earning design and the new habitat and filter was underwritten by Google and installed by Googleserve volunteers.

Childrens Fairyland Habitat

Oaklands storybook themed amusement park added several new chapters to the Posse’s history by joining and expanding the Butterfly Fostering program and adding another ## square yards of butterfly and bee habitat.

KONO Bikeways Planters

The Pathway extends northward toward Berkeley along Telegraph Avenue. Along that route, the Posse helped install # planters, each its own mini habitat for pollinators

Pollinator Pavilion at the 2016 San Francisco Flower and Garden Show

The Posse contributed fun and educational activities in a kid-friendly space at  the 2016 San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. Posse members also offered attendees their expertise to promote, encourage and facilitate pollinator gardens at residential properties throughout the Bay Area.

Lafayette Square Makeover

On Earth Day 2015, downtown Oakland’s Lafayette Square received a much-needed makeover and pollinators benefitted from several habitat plots planted that day. Oakland  integrated technology design company Teecom contributed funding and its employees added ## square yards of new habitat in one day.


Pollinator Pathways
More info soon

Lakeside Park Butterfly House
More info soon


Project-specific funding and employee volunteer hours bring the dream of interconnected pollinator habitat in Oakland ever closer to reality. Project Sponsorships enable you and your colleagues to build teamwork while giving back to the community. The Posse also can come to your workplace to give educational talks or plant habitat gardens. Our fundraising team can contact you if you message us.


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