Monarch Butterflies: A Fond Pismo Beach Farewell Until Next Season

Monarch butterfly

In February we say goodbye to the delicate monarch butterflies that grace the Pismo State Beach each winter. The Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove is one of the most spectacular viewing areas in California. The eucalyptus forest, off Highway 1 on the south side of Pismo, provides shelter for the migrating monarchs who cannot tolerate cold winter temperatures. This particular grove hosts one of the largest colonies in the nation with an approximate count on December 31, 2015 of 28,000 monarchs.

Visitors to the grove witness what is called clustering as the monarchs group tightly together. The sight is miraculous as the eucalyptus leaves are covered in a layer of silent orange wings. There are many theories as to why monarchs cluster. Some say they are simply attracted to particular conditions within a given location. Others believe the monarchs benefit from being a part of a group, including protection from predators and shared body heat.

Whatever the reason, we are thankful to experience their majestic presence at the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove. Learn a little bit about monarchs before visiting the grove with these 10 fun facts.

10 Monarch Butterfly Fun Facts

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  1. The monarchs residing in western North America are the same species as those in Eastern North America.
  2. To discover where monarchs live, identify where milkweed grows. Monarch larvae, or caterpillars, require milkweed as a source of food.
  3. The average adult monarch weighs half a gram.
  4. Monarchs identify various species of plants through sensory organs on their feet and heads.
  5. Monarchs do not normally eat during overwintering, but they must drink water.
  6. The monarchs who overwinter in Pismo Beach, and other parts of California’s coast, spend their lifetime west of the Rocky Mountain Range. The coastal forests mimic the microhabitat of Mexico’s mountains where monarchs east of the Rockies overwinter.
  7. Monarchs generally live for two to six weeks. However, the last generation of the year live up to nine months. How? This generation does not become sexually mature adults immediately like summer generations do. Instead, they can’t reproduce until spring arrives when they start the new first generation that make their way north. Besides sexual maturity, these monarchs live longer because they are not exerting energy to reproduce and the cool temperatures slow their metabolism.
  8. It’s the last generation monarchs that visit Pismo Beach, but even with their extended life span, the butterflies that leave at the end of February will never return to the grove.
  9. The monarch’s pupa is called a chrysalis, not a cocoon. Depending on temperature, they remain in the chrysalis for eight to twelve days. You can distinguish males from females during this stage. The female has a very small line on one of her abdominal segments while the male does not.
  10. A female monarch lays an average of 400 to 500 eggs in her lifetime, but can lay up to 1,000 eggs.

Visit the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove through the month of February as we bid the monarchs a fond farewell and look forward to their return in November. The grove is open daily 10:00am to 4:00pm with docent-led talks at 11:00am and 2:00pm. The grove is easily accessible off Highway 1 at the south side of Pismo Beach. For more information, contact the Visitor Information Center at 800-443-7778 or the Interpretive Office of the Oceano Dunes, California State Parks at 805-773-5301.

Wintering with the SeaCrest OceanFront Hotel

Monarchs aren’t the only ones who love Pismo Beach during the winter months. Visit the SeaCrest OceanFront Hotel to experience the mild weather, white sand beach, heated outdoor pool and year round picnic area. Book your stay today!

pismo beach hotel reservations

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