They’re back! After last year’s record low monarch butterfly population count of just 1,914, it seems nothing short of a miracle that preliminary 2021 estimations are already reaching 20,000. At many places along the coast, you can see thousands of butterflies congregating together at overwintering sites due to the fact that they can’t fly well at temperatures below 55 degrees. If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of this fascinating phenomenon, consider visiting these monarch butterfly hotspots.
The Pacific Grove Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Monterey is currently reporting massive numbers of monarch butterflies (over 13,000 as of November 6), and populations continue to grow exponentially at each count. This overwintering site didn’t see a single butterfly last year, so this is an exciting change!
Santa Cruz is reporting significant Monarch activity at Natural Bridges State Beach. The current count is at over 1,000, twice as much as last year. Back in 2016, this location saw over 8,000 butterflies. You could also try your luck at the nearby Lighthouse Field State Beach.
Pismo Beach in San Luis Obispo is one of the most active monarch butterfly overwintering sites in California. This year, they’re seeing a 3,500% increase in monarch populations, which is more than the last 2 years combined. If you can make the trip, the butterfly views are totally worth it!
Additional overwintering sites
Pacific Grove, Santa Cruz and Pismo Beach are all reporting high numbers of monarch butterflies during the 2021 winter season. According to the Monarch Program, these (relatively) nearby overwintering sites are usually quite active as well, but be sure to call ahead for the most recent monarch activity! This article will be updated.
- Sonoma County
- Marin County
- Alameda County
- Monterey County
- San Luis Obispo County
2021 monarch butterfly season
The Xerxes Society For Invertebrate Conservation reported that there are “early signs of hope,” as a preliminary count shows western monarch populations blowing past last year’s record low of just 1,914 total. Across the entirety of the state, rough estimates are already at over 20,000. The official Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count for 2021 will begin on November 13 with the help of over 100 community scientists. After the monarch population experienced a 99.9% decrease since the millions reported in the 1980s, this major uptick in numbers seems nothing short of a miracle!
According to the Xerces Society, monarch populations are likely flourishing again due to favorable conditions on their breeding grounds, such as temperature, rainfall, and food availability. But we’re not out of the woods yet – they say monarch populations are still very close to extinction despite this year’s increase.
Looking for ways to help these beautiful creatures? Consider getting involved in the Western Monarch Call to Action, which works to protect monarchs and their native habitats all across the state.
Featured image: Noradoa via Shutterstock