California Nature


California Monarch Butterfly Watching

The Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is a widespread tropical insect that ranges as far north as Canada. It cannot withstand freezing winter temperatures. To survive, the Monarch migrates to safe overwintering sites that are neither cold enough to kill it, nor so warm that it wastes precious energy flying too much.

Goleta Butterfly Experience - MOVES Program

The City of Goleta is creating a plan to restore safe access to the Goleta Butterfly Grove on Ellwood Mesa. Currently public access is limited due to the dangers associated with the dead and dying trees.

The City of Goleta is offering an alternative way to understand and experience the phenomenon of the overwintering Monarch Butterflies. The City, in partnership with Nature Tracks, Fish and Wildlife, the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum, and dedicated volunteers, created the Goleta MOVES (Monarch Overwintering Visual Experience Simulation) program to help children continue learning about butterflies.

Everyone is welcome to visit the simulated experience at Evergreen Park from October through March. Four clusters of 100-150 feathered monarch butterflies have been placed in an area most closely representing the grove at Ellwood Mesa. In addition to the outdoor exhibit, the program includes display boxes for students to see butterflies up close as well as materials and activities to assist in the education process. To get to the simulated grove, walk past the playground equipment (located on Evergreen Drive near Hillview Drive) and over the foot bridge. Walk approximately another 50 yards and the area is on your left down the grassy hill.

Pacific Grove Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary

250 Ridge Road
Pacific Grove, CA 93950
740 Count in 2018 VS 24,123 in 2014

The sanctuary is a Pacific Grove municipal park and is freely open from sunrise to sunset. There is no admission fee. Donations to support the Museum monarch education and the monarch docent programs are deeply appreciated.
Museum docents are present everyday in Pacific Grove's Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary from Nov to Feb from 12-3, weather permitting.

Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove

Each year thousands of vibrant orange and black Monarch Butterflies flock to Pismo Beach, seeking shelter from the freezing northern winters. From late October to February, the butterflies cluster in the limbs of a grove of Eucalyptus trees at Pismo State Beach. The grove is easily accessible. It is located on State Highway 1 at the south boundary of the city limits of Pismo Beach.

Pacific Grove Every Year, Over 25,000 Monarchs Overwinter in Pacific Grove (note: those numbers were averaged over years but current migrations may be lower)

Arriving in October, the Monarch Butterflies cluster together on the pines and eucalyptus trees of the Sanctuary. Their migration to Pacific Grove is so unitique and inspiring that Pacific Grove is nicknamed "Butterfly Town, U.S.A." The community has always welcomed the butterflies and sought for their protection. Citizens of Pacific Grove voted to create an additional tax to create the Monarch Grove Sanctuary, led by dedicated volunteers.

Santa Cruz Natural Bridges State Beach Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve

Docent-led butterfly, tidepool and nature trail tours are available seasonally.

The park's Monarch Grove provides a temporary home for up to 100,000 Monarchs each winter. From roughly mid-October through mid-February, the Monarchs form a "city in the trees." The area's mild ocean air and eucalyptus grove provide a safe roost until spring. In the spring and summer, the butterflies live in the valley regions west of the Rocky Mountains where milkweed, the only plant a Monarch caterpillar eats, is plentiful. Monarch migration is variable, and numbers vary each year. Before you visit, you may want to call the park for current information on the population.

The Monarch Grove has been declared a Natural Preserve, thus protecting the Monarchs and their winter habitat from human encroachment or harm. This is the only State Monarch Preserve in California. Access to the preserve area is limited to a handicap accessible boardwalk and observation area.

Monarchs begin arriving in October and most are gone by the first week of March. The grove contains eucalyptus trees which are located in a canyon, providing the Monarch needed shelter from the wind. These winter flowering trees are also a convenient food source for the butterfly. On chilly days when the temperature drops below 60 degrees, the butterflies cluster together in the eucalyptus trees for warmth.

The park maintains a demonstration milkweed patch where visitors may view Monarch eggs, caterpillars and chrysalides. For about half a year, milkweed is the Monarch's home, super market and maternity ward. The Monarch larva eats only the milkweed plant.

Visitors can view the over-wintering Monarchs by walking down the park's wheelchair and stroller-accessible boardwalk to an observation deck in the eucalyptus grove.

Please, do not touch or throw objects at the fragile butterflies.
For everyone's enjoyment, no smoking, dogs, bicycles, skates, or skateboards on the boardwalk. 


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