Thursday, September 29, 2016

Monarch Grove Sanctuary, Pacific Grove

By Stephanie Wright Hession

On an early fall morning, butterfly enthusiasts arrive at the Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Pacific Grove eager to spy the thousands of black-and-orange creatures wintering at the sanctuary from October through March. They often use high-powered binoculars to see the clusters of monarchs high in the eucalyptus trees, where leaves camouflage the underside of their wings.

A cluster of monarch butterflies. Photo courtesy of the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History

The seemingly fragile beauties travel more than 2,000 miles to get to Pacific Grove, flying 100 miles per day, at altitudes up to 10,000 feet. They mate in February and in the fall, the fifth generation of these butterflies will return. Although theories abound, no one knows for certain how their descendants find their way back.

Residents of Pacific Grove, a city affectionately known as Butterfly Town, U.S.A., diligently protect them. In 1990, voters approved a $1.2 million bond to purchase 2.7 acres of land, preventing it from being developed and creating the Monarch Grove Sanctuary.

Late morning to early afternoon, once the temperature reaches more than 55 degrees, provides the optimal conditions to see the butterflies. That's when they warm their muscles in the sun and take flight in search of nectar. While at the sanctuary, visitors must follow a butterfly etiquette that includes remaining on the designated paths, being watchful of the ground where monarchs may alight and leaving the butterfly clusters undisturbed.

Monarch Grove Sanctuary: Open dawn to dusk. Ridge Road between Lighthouse Avenue and Short Street, Pacific Grove. Free. (831) 648-5716,

No comments: