How to get up close and personal to thousands of monarch butterflies in Monterey Co.

Dustin Dorsey Image
Saturday, January 15, 2022
When to see Monterey's monarch butterflies before they leave
Here's how and when to witness thousands of monarch butterflies in Monterey County.

MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. -- Every fall, Monarch Butterflies make their way to Monterey County to ride out the colder months before moving on for mating season.

There's still time to see them in 2022, but only until mid-February. We have the tips you need to know to get the best experience.

Nestled along the Monterey coast, is natural beauty that you can only see for a few more weeks this year. But to witness it, you have to look up.

"Some years we have thousands and other years, last year was zero, year before that was 650 and the year before that was 800," Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History Docent Stephanie Turcotte Edenholm said. "Every year is different. This year, we've been blessed at peak to have 14,000."

Last count in early January was 9,511 to be exact.

VIDEO: Monarch butterflies return in huge numbers to California after almost vanishing last year

After almost disappearing from overwintering sites in California last year, endangered monarch butterflies are back this year in huge numbers.

Around September, monarchs make their annual trip to Monterey County and the Pacific Grove Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary because of the perfect conditions for these butterflies.

These conditions include temperature, variety of trees, protection from the elements, moisture and plenty of sunshine.

They cluster together through the winter, but when ABC7 Reporter Dustin Dorsey went, he had some incredible views.

"I do encourage people to come visit, it is a beautiful time to come," Edenholm said. "This time of year we sometime get hundreds of Monarchs that suddenly just leave a tree and are flying. So, if you come, you might be able to witness something like that. It's pretty magical."

People come from across the globe to visit the monarchs at Pacific Grove. Those we spoke with were there for the first time ever.

RELATED: Locally extinct butterfly species returned to San Francisco's Presidio

"I'm very impressed," Hilmar resident Ann Steffen said. "It's a beautiful place just to walk through, but just to see the butterflies here makes it very special. "

"It's spectacular," San Francisco resident Jeannie Psomas said. "It's totally unique and unlike anything I've ever seen before. California is so spectacular and you can connect with nature. We get to connect on such a deeper level to our environment and what's around us. It's really good to have that connection."

VIDEO: Bus driver raises Monarch butterflies during COVID-19 pandemic

John Richardson, Jr., also known as "J Love the Butterfly Guy," has been a SEPTA bus driver for close to 33 years. His calling to raise butterflies came during the pandemic.

But the time to make a connection, with these beautiful butterflies will only last for a few more weeks before they leave for mating season.

The best time to go is midday on warmer days. The butterflies don't like to leave their clusters if the weather is below 55 degrees. When the temps are right and the sun is out, the cold-blooded creatures seek the sunshine at the lower end of the grove. That's the best time to see activity. Don't forget to bring a camera or binoculars!

If you haven't visited before and seen the butterflies, now is the time.

"Next year, we don't know how many we'll have," Edenholm said. "So I encourage, if you're interested and able to come, come before mid February. Come and see the monarchs."

Edenholm said you can do your part to help the monarchs by planting native milkweed and nectar sources.

And next time you are in Pacific grove, enjoy a moment monarch of Zen in Monterey County.