February 5 – Western Monarchs in Pismo

Posted on February 5, 2014

Have you ever seen hundreds of thousands of orange butterflies blanketing tall eucalyptus trees? Most of the butterflies look like leaves that barely move in the breeze-sheltered grove, but a few flutter from branch to branch. 

When I first went to see the migrating monarchs, I saw the few flying butterflies and was dazzled by how many there were. Maybe 100 or so! In nature, when do you see 100 identical-looking butterflies flying around one small area at the same time? I was so excited!

My husband asked me, “You see all the butterflies in the trees, don't you?”

Of course!” I answered. I was moving my eyes to follow their fluttery flights.

No,” he said. “I mean, you see all the monarchs that AREN'T moving, don't you? The ones that look like leavesnot the ones flying around?”

And suddenly, just like that, I saw what he was talking about; my brain made sense of what I was seeing—and the flying butterflies became just a bit of background noise. I suddenly saw the thousands and thousands and thousands of still butterflies hanging in each and every tree.

There were so many butterflies clustered in each tree, I couldn't actually see the tree!

I couldn't see the forest for the butterflies!

Monarch butterflies are the only North American butterfly known to migrate south for the winter. Some fly hundreds of miles—some fly 3,000 miles!—to their winter homes. In my home state of California, there are groves of trees that shelter hundreds of thousands of butterflies from around November until February. One of these groves is in Pismo Beach, in Central California, where you can take a walk with docents to see the monarch clusters all through the month of February.

Learn more about monarch butterflies here, and more about their migration here

Also on this date:

Sapporo Snow Festival

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