Nov082013

Monarch Butterflies of Pacific Grove

The Monarch butterflies are here once again at Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Pacific Grove, California, self-proclaimed “Butterfly Town, U.S.A.”

The fascinating aspect is the thousands of Monarch butterflies resting in the trees in an area not much larger than a couple of backyards are the great-grandchildren offspring of the butterflies who wintered here on the Monterey Peninsula last year.

Genetic imprints are an amazing feature of Monarch butterflies who may have traveled across 2,000 miles of landscapes over a year and several life generations eventually to return to a small yard-size space of Pacific Grove for the winter season.

Butterfly Zone

Monarchs in Pacific Grove

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Monarch butterfly on flower at Butterfly Grove Inn hotel, Pacific Grove.

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(text below is from information sign at Monarch Grove Sanctuary, Pacific Grove)

These Monarch Butterflies are part of a dramatic cycle of life that drives masses of fragile wanderers on sweeping journeys across North America.

During summer months, Monarchs are found throughout the United States and Canada. Their northern range is determined by milkweed, the Monarch caterpillar’s favorite food. When the day’s grow shorter, butterflies east of the Rockies follow migration paths to a few ancestral locations in mountainous central Mexico. Monarchs whose summer range is west of the mountains migrate to a number of traditional locations along California’s coast. These insects seek a microclimate with the right combination of cool temperatures, humidity, light, shade and wind.

Butterfly life cycle: Several generations of Monarchs take part in the annual migration. Butterflies born in the spring and summer months are short-lived, passing through four or five generations – metamorphosing through egg, larval (caterpillar), pupal (chrysalis) and adult stages – while returning north.

The generation of fall migrants traveling south towards overwintering sites live up to nine months and can travel up to 2,000 miles. They overwinter from October & November through February & March, when warmer temperatures trigger their sexual organs. During mating season, males spiral through the air in pursuit of females. Males couple with their mates, carrying them aloft to branches in acrobatic flights.”

I have visited the Monarch Grove Sanctuary the past two days. Small groups of ten or fewer school children were present part of the time both days. There were people from all over with international visitors from England, Germany and Canada and I talked with people visiting from Sacramento who did not pack the binoculars and locals enjoying life here the way we tend to do.

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Bring your binoculars and telephoto lens to see the masses of butterflies hanging from the eucalyptus and pine trees. You will likely be at least 10 to 20 feet away from the eucalyptus and pine branches loaded with masses of Monarchs.

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Dozens of Monarch butterflies are resting on the branches and leaves of this eucalyptus tree at Monarch Grove Sanctuary.  The vast majority of the thousands of Monarch butterflies in Pacific Grove hang out in high density on just a few trees in a small area consisting of the public park and a couple of backyards of local residents. When the weather warms during the day in the 60s there are Monarch butterflies flittering around the neighborhood.

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Adolescent children on a school field trip to the Monarch Sanctuary Grove held their bare arms outstretched, obediently standing on the path separated by rope from the butterfly populated bushes in the park. The Monarchs tended to fly at 10 feet to 30 feet in elevation over visitors heads.

In the adjacent hotel’s garden, a few Monarchs preferred to settle on the flowers at chest height.

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Seeing the masses of butterflies on the trees is a unique experience to view at Pacific Grove Monarch Grove Sanctuary.

Yet, the beauty of the individual Monarchs with their white spots and stained glass patterned wings alone together on colorful flowers or flittering through the air is more appealing to my eye than the masses of butterflies on a few branches.

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Monarch butterflies in-n-out of focus.

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One of my questions to the docent volunteer who monitors the Monarch butterfly grove in the afternoon during peak season was why the Monarchs hang out in large groups in eucalyptus trees in the grove? Eucalyptus trees are not a native tree to Pacific Grove, California.

Pine monarchs

Turns out about half the Monarch butterflies are hanging out in the nearby pine trees.

Come to Pacific Grove, California in the next few months to see the Monarchs. They are still arriving in town during the month of November and they will be hanging around until the warmer weather of spring. Locals say there are far more Monarch butterflies this year than last year. Nature is a cycle and this year’s cycle is treating us to a large population of Monarch butterflies overwintering in this coastal location.  Several thousand Monarchs are already here now concentrated in a ridiculously small area of Pacific Grove.

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Eucalyptus trees sheltering hundreds of butterflies in Monarch Sanctuary Grove, Pacific Grove, California

For more information:

TripAdvisor.com – Monarch Grove Sanctuary, Pacific Grove

Monarch Alert Cal Poly California State University San Luis Obispo. Site includes a video of how the university helped improve the Monarch Sanctuary Grove in Pacific Grove over the past couple of years.

Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History

Ventana Wildlife Society

There are several hotels in the immediate vicinity of the Monarch Grove, yet these hotels are also in the vacationland environment of the pine forest and sea shore location of Pacific Grove.

Butterfly Grove Inn is literally adjacent to the Monarch Sanctuary Grove. Clarion Collection Wilkies Inn is across the street from the butterfly grove. Rates there for next week are $70 to $90 per night or 20,000 Choice Privileges points per night. Cash rate is a better choice for Clarion.

There are several other good quality independent hotels and B&Bs on Lighthouse Avenue within walking distance of the butterfly grove and the seashore.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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