It’s the time of year when the monarchs head south for the winter. And they often stop in LA on their way. Inspired by our friend Allyson and the success she and her kids had with their own butterfly garden we decided to entice them to linger a bit longer by planting our own. Since we didn’t have time to plant seeds and wait for them to grow we stopped at Armstrong Garden Centers and picked-up 1 gallon plants. Rumor has it the nice folks at Armstrong don’t mind if you stop in and look for plants with caterpillars on them. And sometimes they may even let you take a caterpillar home. Once you plant your garden you may get a few monarchs stopping by as they pass through to their winter hibernation home. Or if you have some monarch caterpillars you can watch them change into a butterfly and fly away.
After planting seeds earlier this year Allyson’s garden grew, the butterflies arrived and without any prompting laid eggs in their garden which resulted in dozens of monarch caterpillars. Two of those monarch caterpillars came home with us and took up residence in our butterfly garden. We have had a wonderful time watching the butterflies (and the hummingbirds) come and go. In fact, one of those caterpillars that Allyson sent home with us found his way onto our Halloween spider web decorations and promptly formed a pupa (see images below). We are watching daily for the butterfly to emerge. You can keep up with photos on our butterfly’s progress on our Instagram feed at #MonarchWatch.
Want to plant your own butterfly garden? Check out these suggestions from Flight of the Butterflies on their website.
Fascinated with the monarchs like we are? You can see their migration patterns on the Flight of the Butterflies site, which is an amazing 3D film we had the luck to see last year at the CA Science Center. (Read the review) Here’s a few places Monarch Watch (and our friend Allyson) recommend for public viewing of the monarch gatherings from October to mid February in the San Diego and Santa Barbara areas. You can also find more locations on Monarch Program.
There’s also a terrific post from DIY Garden that details the history of butterflies if you’d like to learn more.
Presidio Park in San Diego County is located on a hill above Old Town State Historic Park and is accessible from numerous exits near the junction of Interstate 5 and 8. From Tayor St., take Chestnut St. and turn left on Presidio Dr. Travel to the top of the hill and turn left on Cosoy Way. The monarchs roost in the Canary Island Pine trees along each side of Cosoy Way. In November, the butterflies often roost in the eucalyptus trees between Serra Historical Museum and the pine trees. There is a population of approximately 900 and there is no fee to visit. For more information about the park visit them online at https://www.sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation/parks/regional/presidio.
The eucalyptus groves on the UCSD campus have been the winter home of the monarchs since the 1950’s. Approximately 4500 butterflies converge there every year. There are two viewing sites. The first is near the Mandeville Performing Arts Center in the eucalyptus trees along the blue screen art sculpture. The second site is near the UCSD Coast Apartments in the eucalyptus grove off of Azul Street.
Doheny State Beach is a great place to bring the family. The monarch roosting trees are near a sandy beach, water activities, playgrounds, acres of well-kept lawns, picnic tables and nearby ocean front restaurants. You can ask the rangers at the main gate to direct you to the roosting spot. There is a fee to enter the park.
Refugio State Beach located along Hwy. 1, this site on the beach is great for family visits. The butterflies are active in the daytime during warm temperatures, and roost on palm and eucalyptus trees at night or during cold weather. Ask the rangers where the monarchs may be viewed (entrance fee).
City of Goleta – Beginning in October each year, Monarch Butterflies migrate from their summer homes and congregate in massive colonies that roost in the canopy of the area known as the Goleta Butterfly Grove/Ellwood Main. The best time is usually between Christmas and through January. Find more information online at www.goletabutterflygrove.com.
The Bacara Resort & Spa nearby the City of Goleta helps its guests see them with its “Bike to the Butterflies” program. Offered every Saturday from Nov. 15 to Feb. 14, the experience costs $59 a person and includes a three-hour bike rental from the property as well as a packed lunch. -excerpt from Butterflies by Bicycle in the NYTimes on October 29, 2014
The Tecolote Canyon site is several miles west of Ellwood Main. It is probably one of the most photographic colonies in southern California because the monarchs often cluster on eucalyptus trees above a large creek with small waterfalls. From Hwy. 101, turn south on the first turnout west of the West Hollister Ave. exit. Park south of Hwy. 101 and follow the trail east (not south to the beach). Walk down the trail to the creek (no fee).
The Coronado Butterfly Preserve is home to native coastal sage scrub habitat, eucalyptus groves and numerous birds and wildlife that thrive in this urban community treasure. The 9.3-acre preserve includes Devereux Creek, woodlands and meadows as well as trails, an outdoor gathering area and classroom. The Preserve is protected open space and acts as a gateway to existing and future protected coastal resource areas nearby, via trails linking the Goleta Monarch Grove, Ellwood Shores coastal bluffs, Santa Barbara Shores County Park, the Devereux Slough and the beach. Find out more information online at www.sblandtrust.org/coronado-butterfly-preserve-2.