PACIFIC GROVE, Calif. (KION) In Pacific Grove the Western Monarch butterfly is the city mascot. But if you wanted to catch a glimpse of these black and orange flying beauties this past winter, it would have been tough to see one or any at all.
October through February, the Central Coast happens to be an ideal place for monarch butterflies, like Goldilocks, it's not too hot. It's not too cold. But during what should have been the height of their migration to the coast, the Pacific Grove Monarch Sanctuary saw a decline of the butterflies and it came as a bit of shock.
Bree Machuca, Education Programs Coordinator, Pacific Grove Museum of
Natural History, "We don’t know why they didn’t show up in our own Pacific Grove Monarch Sanctuary. We kind of know why overall. Their population is declining from habitat loss, climate change, pesticides, and other factors."
However, you’re not likely to see any monarch butterflies this time of year. They migrate back inland to Central California for breeding. This was the first winter the sanctuary didn't see any monarchs compared to the thousands that usually gather.
Machuca states, "There may have been a few flyers flying around but those aren’t ones we can count. These aren’t the ones we see clustering in the trees. That's why our numbers from a scientific standpoint were zero."
The population decline does tell us a lot about the health of certain ecosystems and changes in weather patterns attributed to climate change. It could be an indicator as to why monarchs didn't call the Central Coast home.
Machuca continues, "Monarchs are indicators species, if they’re not around anymore that tells us the health of the habitat. That the habitat is no longer healthy. And monarchs aren’t the greats of pollinators but they are important for all the other pollinators for our bees, for our flies, for our moths."
The PG Sanctuary is just one major location on the Central Coast where
monarch butterflies huddle during the winter. There were a few clusters spotted at Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz and further south in
Pismo Beach, still not in abundant numbers.
If temperatures aren't dropping inland, then there's not a need to migrate to a mild coastal location to overwinter. The population itself may not go extinct, but their migration cycle and migration pattern are what the Pacific Grove Monarch Sanctuary is afraid of losing.
If you want to help the monarchs, spring is the perfect time to do so. You can plant nectar plants and if you live 10 miles from the coast you can plant native milkweed as well.