One of the most spectacular sights you can behold this season is the migration of thousands of orange and black Monarch butterflies flocking to Pismo Beach as they take shelter from the winter weather. From late October to February, the butterflies cluster in the limbs of a grove of eucalyptus trees at Pismo State Beach. As this grove is easily accessible, thousands of visitors come each year to witness the migration.
When you arrive at the grove, knowledgeable and well-informed volunteer docents will greet you. They will not only provide you with a wealth of information, but you can also help them with some of their daily tasks. When you approach the grove, you will find butterflies gathered in dense clusters, with each one hanging with its wing down over the one below it to form a shingle effect. This provides shelter from the rain and warmth for the group, and furthermore, the weight of the cluster help keeps it from whipping in the wind and dislodging the butterflies.
Pismo Beach boasts one of the largest groves in the nation, hosting an average of 25,000 butterflies over the last five years. Additionally, the monarchs that visit Pismo Beach are a special variety. Their unique fat storing system allows them to have a life span of six months as opposed to that of common monarchs who live only six weeks.
If you intend on seeing the Monarchs, there are a few things that will affect how successful you visit will be. First, you must remember that the butterflies cannot fly when the temperature is below 57°F, nor can they fly on cloudy days. Therefore, it is advisable to visit on a warmer, cloudless day. To see them flying around it is optimal to visit between 12:00pm and 3:00pm as this is when they are most active.
If you have the chance this fall, make sure you head over to Pismo Beach to witness the breathtaking monarchs.