Every year from October to February some 50,000 to 70,000 Monarch butterflies flock to the Pacific Grove Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary to overwinter. The Monarch butterfly is incapable of withstanding temperatures colder than 55 degrees. The butterflies migrate to safer climates like Pacific Grove, where the shrouded pine forests keep them safe from wind and colder temperatures with proper shade and humidity. The butterflies’ migration is so unique; inhabitants of Pacific Grove have even coined their town as “Butterfly Town, U.S.A”.
The scientific name for the monarch butterfly is Danaus plexippus. It is a tropical insect that can fly as high as 10,000 feet, and has far as 2,000 miles at 100 miles a day. Who knew such a little insect could cover so much ground in one day? The difference between these migrating insects and other migrating animals like whales and birds is that most of the butterflies have never been to their warmer destinations. The female Monarch butterfly for instance lives anywhere from six weeks to eight months, depending on the climate in which she is born. Monarch butterflies born in late summer and fall tend to live longer as there is less daylight, which delays their sexual maturity. Regardless, several generations of Monarchs will pass before it is time to migrate again to a warmer climate.
Pacific Grove has been a butterfly community for years and has always fought to keep the Monarchs protected. The Monarch sanctuary is free to visit and an absolutely brilliant sight to see on a warm weekend afternoon. It is open year round, but the best time to go is when they are overwintering from October to February, as I mentioned earlier. Although I wouldn’t suggest trying to touch or capture the butterflies -the fine is $1000!