Get to Know the Pismo beach Monarch butterflies


We have seals (of the elephant and lion variety), zebras, whales, and dolphins. But did you know that we have another migratory inhabitant that likes to visit with 20,000-30,000 of its best friends? Beginning in November, you will be able to view tens of thousands of Monarch Butterflies in Pismo Beach as they stay for the winter. Easily accessible from Highway 1 at the south boundary of Pismo Beach, you can find these little migrating wonders clinging in large clumps on Eucalyptus Tree branches.

From November to February you can view these winged beauties right here on the Central Coast in Pismo Beach and Morro Bay. Docents are available on site to answer any and all butterfly related question. Until then here are some facts to get you started.

7 Facts about Monarch Butterflies:

1) Why Pismo Beach (and Morro Bay)?

Monarch Butterflies go wherever milkweed grows and come to sunny California to escape the cold for the winter. In fact, many locals may have already seen their milkweed plants dwindle as caterpillars munch away.

2) Where do they come from?

Monarch butterflies summer in the Sierra Nevada’s, Florida, Canada and the Great Lakes Region of North America. Most butterflies who stop by the Central Coast venture down from Canada and the Sierra Nevada’s.

3) How many are there?

In January of 2015 estimates for Monarch Butterflies hit the 30,000 mark. Pismo Beach is one of the largest congregations of Monarch Butterflies in the world and hosts, on average, 25,000 butterflies in a season.

4) Where do they hang out?

If you look upwards in the Eucalyptus trees, those aren’t orange and yellow leaves. Monarch Butterflies like to get nice and cozy with each other and tend to “clump” on branches when the temperature drops below 65 degrees Fahrenheit. These clusters are formed by covering each other with their wings in layers that look a lot like shingles on a roof. These clusters provide shelter from the rain and warmth for the group, in addition to adding weight to keep the cluster from whipping in the wind and dislodging the butterflies.

5) How long do they live?

Typically between 2-6 weeks. The Pismo Beach Monarch Grove has found that the butterflies who winter here on the Central Coast are on the longer end of the scale, living for as long as 8 months due to being born in late summer. Only Monarch’s that are born in late summer make the migration south.

6) How can you tell a male from a female?

Males have a black spot on the inside of their hind wing.

7) How fast do they fly?

12-25 miles per hour

We hope you enjoy your time at the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove. Tag your monarch butterfly photos using our #VisitSLOCounty on Instagram! We'd love to see any and all of your San Luis Obispo County travel photos.