Stopping by the Pacific Grove, CA Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary on November 9, we arrived with anticipation. On previous visits in the early 2000’s, I had seen the thousands of butterflies clinging to and wafting on the eucalyptus’ columnar branches in this park, located between Monterey and Carmel.
This year, we passed numerous trees with no visible butterflies. At the trail’s end, we met a volunteer who said no monarch butterflies had arrived this year. Speculation is that the wildfires along the west coast are a factor.
Much-more-fun facts about the monarch butterfly include:
— As caterpillars, monarchs eat members of the milkweed family exclusively. When they’ve transformed from chrysalisides into butterflies, their diet as pollinators consists of nectar from native plants. California monarchs make up about 5% of the global population. In 2016, the Xerces Society designated Pacific Grove as the 6th most important overwintering ground in California for monarch butterflies.
— In North America, there are two principle migration destinations: Mexico and California.
— Why overwinter in Pacific Grove and other California sites? Microclimates with just the right amount of warmth, humidity and sunlight are optimal for species survival.
–– Overwintering monarchs used to roost on California sycamore trees. But with urban development and climate change, they have adapted to non-native eucalyptus, as well as Monterey Pine and Monterey Cypress. While overwintering, monarchs fast, relying on the fat stored from their fall migration.