Butterfly Town, U.S.A. – Pacific Grove, CA

Visit the Monarch Butterfly Grove and Sanctuary; where thousand of Monarchs congregate during their annual southerly migration from October through March.

If you’re planning a trip to the Central Coast, Pacific Grove is one of the top picks! As well as being a sanctuary by the bay for people, Pacific Grove is known as “Butterfly Town, U.S.A.” because the town is a haven for migrating Monarch butterflies. This migration is a very unique phenomenon since it can take about four generations to complete a migration cycle. 

Let’s differentiate it compared to other migratory species. Many migratory species, such as birds and whales, follow the same migration route year after year. In contrast, migrating monarchs have never been to their destination before. In fact, several generations of monarchs have lived a full and busy life since last year’s butterflies departed. 

These beauties begin their annual migration in north east United States and Canada and finish in southwest Mexico. Starting October, Monarch butterflies arrive into town and group together on local vegetation such as pine, cypress and eucalyptus trees. During the fall and winter seasons, you can see these bright orange butterflies fluttering their wings about, cruising high in the beautiful bright skies. Pacific Grove isn’t just a destination for beach loving people, but also a warm and inviting stop along the way for these migrating butterflies. 

A female monarch can lay hundreds of eggs. She lays these eggs the size of a pinhead on the bottom of milkweed leaves, where they hatch in 4-5 days, depending on the temperature. The newly hatched caterpillar feeds greedily on milkweed and collects bitter chemicals from the milkweed plant that help protect the monarch from bird predation. Over the next few weeks, the larva grows from 1/16 inch to about 2 inches long, increasing its weight by 2,700 times. To cope with this rapid growth, the larva must shed its distinctly striped skin several times before it is ready for the next stage of development. 

The mature larva usually leaves the milkweed to find a place to hang in its chrysalis. It is affixed by twisting a silk anchor that it then hangs from in the form of a “J”. The chrysalis is a beautiful green pupa adorned with delicate golden studs. Inside the cocoon, the caterpillar’s body undergoes metamorphosis, a process in which its tissues and organs reorganize into a strikingly different body than the monarch butterfly. After two weeks, the chrysalis becomes transparent, indicating that the black and orange butterfly inside is ready to emerge. 

The average adult monarch butterfly weighs about half a gram but don’t be fooled by their size, Monarchs can soar high and proud up to a whopping 10,000 feet above ground.

When it’s too cold for them, usually below 55 degrees, Monarch butterflies can’t use their flight muscles. They quietly wait until the sun comes out and warms them up so they can finally take flight to feed. When they are unable to move, they resemble dead leaves on a tree so that predators cannot detect them. This built in camouflage feature helps preserve monarch butterfly populations so that the next generation can continue the trip! 

If you’re looking for things to do in Pacific Grove, be sure to visit the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary at 250 Ridge Road, Pacific Grove. The Monarch butterflies arrive in mid to late October and leave in early March. Stay close by at hotels in Pacific Grove, RSVP for your proper exploration today!