Monarch Butterflies Are Streaming Into California And Mexico

The annual monarch butterfly migration might just be the most colorful migration†in the natural world.

California is the overwintering home for most of the western monarch butterfly population, and thousands of them have already been spotted in Pacific Grove. Hundreds of thousands more will flock to the California coast in the next few weeks to cluster together on trees such as Monterey cypress, Monterey pine and eucalyptus for the winter.†

They may be getting help from a surprising source: the stateís drought.

In the face of water restrictions, Californians have been taking out their lawns and replacing them with native plants, including milkweed species, which can thrive in arid conditions. Thatís important for monarchs, since the female will lay her eggs on only milkweed.†

As Capital Public Radio reports, “San Diego nursery owner Tom Merriman didn’t even sell milkweed five years ago. This season, he’s sold more than 14,000 milkweed plants, including varieties that can grow in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts.”

At the same time, monarch butterflies are filling the skies of Texas, on their way into northern Mexico.

Patti Berkstresser described the scene she witnessed on October 13 to Monarch Butterfly Journey North†:

“Thousands migrating over Leakey, Texas, starting at about 7:30 this morning. Counted over 100 per minute for at least 1 1/2 hours. They were flying about 300 feet elevation until about 9:00, and then were observed closer to ground. Hundreds were along Leakey Springs, dipping in and out of water.”

The Monarch Butterfly Journal notes that butterflies were flying at an estimated rate of 6,000 to 10,000 per hour.

The Decline Of Monarch Butterflies

This is good news, because monarch butterflies have been in serious jeopardy recently.

According to the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), monarchs have declined by more than 90 percent in the past two decades. Referring to this dramatic decline,†the FWS announced earlier this year that it was going to team up with the National Wildlife Federation, as well as the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to launch a new campaign to protect monarchs and restore habitat across the country.

Monarch butterflies could also soon be included on the Endangered Species List. A total of 52 members of Congress have signed a petition to President Obama asking that the butterfly be noted as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

An Amazing Migration

Like other creatures, monarch butterflies migrate to get away from the cold. However, they are the only insect that migrates an average of 2,500 miles to find a warmer climate. Each fall they travel south and west across the United States once the weather turns cold, usually in mid-October.

Where they head depends on where they are coming from. In general, those that†live east of the Rocky Mountains migrate to the western central forests of Mexico and hibernate in oyamel fir trees. Monarchs that spend their summers west of the Rockies travel to the area around Pacific Grove, Calif., where they hang out in eucalyptus trees.†

I was privileged to witness this migration a few years ago on a visit to Pismo Beach, Calif. As I rounded a corner on Highway 1, just south of Pismo Beach, I could see the amazing spectacle of thousands of butterflies festooned all over the eucalyptus trees. It was breathtaking. I learned that there were around 25,000 butterflies gathered in the grove of trees.

Even more amazing, these butterflies use the same trees every year, even though they arenít the same butterflies that were there last year.†

Letís hope all the conservation efforts are working, and there really are more monarch butterflies migrating in 2015 than there were in 2014. And if you feel strongly about helping monarch butterflies, please sign and share†this petition urging the US Fish and Wildlife Service to list the monarch butterfly as an endangered species deserving of life-saving protections under federal law.



Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Angela K.
Angela K2 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey2 years ago

A world without butterflies would be very bleak.

Carole R.
Carole R2 years ago

There used to be lots of these beautiful butterflies here in Pennsylvania but the last few years there are very few. Very sad. I miss them.

Ake Lindberg
Past Member 2 years ago

Great article. Nice to see that people grow milkweed and feed carterpillars through the stages to beautiful butterflies!

Paulinha Russell
Paulinha R2 years ago

Thank you

Jennifer Manzi
Jennifer Manzi2 years ago

tyfs, the only insect I'm fond of

Shawna S.
Shawna S2 years ago

I love Monarch butterflies. I grew up with them in my life. I would love to witness their migration.
Thanks for sharing.

Misbah Malik
Misbah Malik2 years ago

Since my childhood I am seeing and loving these butterflies?

Pat P.
Pat P2 years ago

It is good to hear that Californians are growing the milkweed plant for Monarchs, but if we don't do something about the massive spraying of pesticides, like Roundup, the butterflies will still be in big trouble--encouraging them to procreate but then killing them off, when they do!