Return of the Monarchs – Butterflies Fill the Air in Pismo Beach (Updated 2018)

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

From November to February, thousands of Western Monarch Butterflies overwinter near Pismo Beach.

All is quiet as you walk toward the towering eucalyptus trees in the Monarch Butterfly Grove near Pismo Beach. Nothing seems to be going on, just a gentle breeze that’s ruffling the leaves.

Monarch Butterfly on tree image
This Western Monarch Butterfly (and thousands of his or her friends) overwinters in the Monarch Butterfly Grove near Pismo Beach.

But you pause, and look up.

There, high in the branches, black and orange striped confetti flits and flutters, as hundreds of Western Monarch Butterflies take to the air.

Why Visit?

Each year, from November through February, the Western Monarch Butterfly overwinters in sheltered groves of eucalyptus and Monterey cypress trees along the California Central Coast.

One of their favorite stops is the Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove. Thousands of the brightly colored butterflies gather in the grove.

On cool days below 55 degrees, the Monarchs will be clustered in groups for protection from the elements. At first glance, they may look like brown, dead leaves. But look more closely. These clusters of “leaves” will transform into groups of vibrant Monarch butterflies.

On warm days, they’ll take to air, looking for a mate. You might be lucky enough to see a burst as hundreds take flight. Watching them is mesmerizing — it’s Monarch meditation.

They also congregate in areas around Morro Bay and other Central Coast locations.

Life of the Western Monarch

The butterflies you’ll see in the grove have never been here before. They’re actually four generations removed from last year’s overwintering group.

Life cycle poster image
The Monarchs that overwinter in Pismo Beach can live as long as eight months. (The other generations? Only a few weeks.)

These came south and west from colder areas, perhaps as far as 2,000 miles. When they arrive, they shelter in groups to conserve energy and as protection from predators. As the weather gets warmer, usually starting in late January through March, they become more active as they start looking for mates and food.

Adult females lay 200 to 400 eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves. In about four days, the eggs hatch into larvae. These caterpillars feed on milkweed leaves for two to three weeks, grow in size and develop their distinct yellow, white, and black striped coloration.

Next, the caterpillar attaches to a sturdy twig or branch and forms the jade-green chrysalis. In about 15 days, the Western Monarch emerges.

The new generation finds a mate, lays eggs, and continues the cycle.

Those born in the spring and summer live about two to six weeks. The generation that  overwinters in the grove can live up to eight months.

Getting Here

Located between the Pismo Pier and the Grand Avenue entrance station to Pismo Beach, Monarch Grove is a pretty stop on Hwy 1. Just look west for the signs and parking lot. It’s free and open year-round.

If the lot is full, which it likely will be on weekends, park along the road and walk in.

Located just south of the town of Pismo Beach, Monarch Butterfly Grove is free and open all year. Even when the Monarchs have left for the spring and summer, the grove is still a peaceful place to visit

On many weekends, especially in February, volunteers, docents, and California State Parks employees set up telescopes, have an information booth, and give presentations about the life cycle of the Western Monarch Butterfly.

And even after the Monarch Butterflies have moved to their summer homes (typically in Canada or the Rocky Mountains), the grove is a peaceful, beautiful place to spend a little time connecting with nature.

Be sure to take a little extra time and take the path to the ocean. It’s just a few minutes’ walk through the trees and dune vegetation before you find yourself at the waves.

Meet the Monarchs

Make plans to visit the Central Coast, especially between November and February, and stop by the Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove. Then, prepare to be amazed.

The spectacle of hundreds or thousands of Western Monarch Butterflies floating and flitting overhead is a memory you’ll always remember.

 

If you’re looking for a few other ways to enjoy the outdoors around Pismo Beach, here are few ideas:
Dive In to a Great New Year (Pismo Beach Polar Plunge)
Firelight Rhapsody: Enjoy the Simple Pleasure of a Pismo Beach Campfire (10 Easy Steps)
Or do both – they’re even better together.

Leave a Reply

About Great Flavors
Central Coast

Our mission: to help you create your own unique journey of exploration on the Central Coast
Our guiding light: to build the Central Coast’s most comprehensive online travel magazine and resource guide
Our passion: to foster and encourage a vibrant community of others who believe in living a life filled with great flavors

Recent Posts

Follow Us

📸 Instagram

4

0

Happy Thanksgiving. Thankful for all that we have and around us! What are you thankful for today? 🦃

10

0

When Bristols Cider House opened in 1994 in Atascadero, it was the first cidery in the area. Since then, it's paved the way for the cider revolution on the Central Coast and beyond. 🍎 Here's how it all started, and we can't wait to taste what they'll pour at the SLO Hard Core Cider Tour. (Dang it. Now we're thirsty for a Mangelwurtzel.)⠀ ...⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ @bristolsciderhouse #hardcider #cider #atascadero #hardcorecidertour

18

1

Jean Marie Cidery was started by two good friends (we love how the name honors their Moms 😀) a few years ago, and they continue to innovate, expand, and explore in the hard cider world. How about this: combining their so-good-on-its-own hard cider with local Whalebird Kombucha ? The result is 😍 Lovechild -- have you tried it yet? Can't wait to taste what they're pouring at the SLO Hard Core Cider Tour on Saturday Oct. 26. ⠀ 🍎 For this and more cider stories, see link in Bio. ...⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ @jeanmariecidery @whalebirdkombucha #hardcider #cider #ciderevent #sanluisobispo #slo #hardcorecidertour

23

0

The fun at Hard Core Cider Tour SLO is right around the corner (Sat. Oct.26), and Two Broads Ciderworks is one of the great local cidermakers who will pouring at the event. 🍏 Here's a bit of what's on tap from this innovative team. 👉 Link in Bio has a barrel-full of cider features.🍎 ... . . . . @twobroadscider #hardcider #cider #craftcider #ciderevent #sansluisobispo #slo #shareslo #hardcorecidertour

18

0

It’s Sausage Pizza Day! 🍕 If you haven't tried the pillowy light Napoletana pizzas at Flour House in downtown San Luis Obispo, we'll warn you -- they're swoon-worthy (the gluten-free one, too). We loved learning how Gessica and Alberto brought this authentic pizza (and imported oven) to SLO. See feature story link in Bio! ...⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #sausagepizzaday #napoletanapizza #pizza #sanluisobisop #slo #shareslo #downtownslo #pizzaofinstagram

15

2

Amazing views emerging from the perfect swim 🏊‍♂️ 🌅

18

3

Art is storytelling. Last night we enjoyed seeing the vision Becky from @clair_images had in her waterscape series, as well as listen to some of her stories behind the photos. The photos began to take on new meaning and depth to bring them to life. 🌊 If you have the chance check out Becky’s art at the @banthonyjewelers you to check downtown SLO when you are downtown while you can.

15

2

🍪 Grab the milk cuz it's Homemade Cookie Day! Here's one of our favorite local cookie bakers - @350_cookie_company ! They handmake a bunch of fun and yummy cookies. Dang, now we're hungry 👩‍🚀 What's your favorite cookie? For goodness bakes read the full story 🍪👇 🍪👉 Link in Bio 📷 @sas001 🎥 @greatflavors 🎶 Game Face, Jumbo ... . . . . . . . #foodpic #dinner #lunch #foodlover #foodblogger #dessert #foodies #foodblog #nomnom #foodie #foodlover #tasty #cookies #smores #90scartoons #90svideogames #videogames #slo #sanluisobispo #arroyogrande #pismobeach #atascadero #pasorobles #morrobay #grover #bakedgoods

12

1

It's Coffee Day! ☕ And that calls for great coffee and one of the best places we know is @8575perfettocaffe near Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach. Their Italian coffee is sooo good. Black. To allow the rich flavors to shine. What's your favorite cuppa to celebrate Coffee Day? ⠀ 📰 Fun feature article: Link in Bio! ⠀ ⠀ ...⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #coffeeday #italiancoffee #coffee #arroyogrande #groverbeach

10

0

🔥🍣 Add a little fire and fun for those special occasions. ⠀ Fun with friends at Yanagi Sushi in Pismo ⠀ ...⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #pismobeach #habachi #japanesefood #slocounty #centralcoast

23

4

🍨 Can't think of a better way to start the week off! ⠀ What's your flavor?⠀ ⠀ 🐘 Animal style from @nitecreamery SLO⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ...⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #slo #sanluisobispo #icecream#nitroicecream #machaicecream ⠀ #foodpic #dinner #lunch #foodlover #foodblogger #dessert #healthyfood#foodies #chef #foodblog #nomnom#fresh #foodie #foodlover #tasty

26

1

Nothing better than a nice walk on Pismo Beach. Here is a view at the end of the day right under the Pismo Pier. 🏄‍♂️🌞🌊☺⠀ ...⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #pismobeach #california #beach #summer #ocean #roadtrip #westcoast #beachvibes #beachin #sandcloud #savethefishies #805 #california⠀ #Highway1 #visitslo #calpolyslo #sanluisobispo #beautifuldestinations #california #centralcoast #calpoly #californiacoast #happy #beachtowns #summertravel #instatravel #calitravel #travelgram #california #surfing