Without milkweed, there would be no Monarch Butterﬂies. They lay their eggs exclusively on milkweed and milkweed is becoming relatively scarce. Please plant milkweed and help save a species. This is the message we came away with after our visit last week to the Monarch Grove at Pismo Beach.
Sue, Ron Lipari and I enjoyed a very scenic drive up the California coast from Oxnard to Pismo Beach to see the Monarchs. We picked a glorious spring-like day and there were hundreds of Monarchs flying, bunching and mating among the eucalyptus trees. Sadly, though, there were only about a fourth as many as we had seen just the previous year. The docent at the grove explained to us that continued development and pesticide use along the coast has drastically decreased the Monarch habitat. This has been ongoing for years and the Monarch population at Pismo Grove has steadily decreased about 50% each year. Add to that the ﬁres last year and the result was an 80% reduction in only one year! The butterﬂies were just unable to ﬂy south through the burned and smoky areas.
Each year when cold weather arrives the Monarchs begin their 2500 mile migration south. It seems they come south to gather and mate. We were lucky to become voyeurs and watch a couple mating. The female (large wing veins) attracts the male (two dots on thin wing veins). They meet and/or go to the ground together to start mating where, hopefully, the female accepts the male by closing her wings. Coupling takes quite awhile, so once their abdomens are ﬁrmly attached, the happy male single-handedly carries them, coupled together, back up into the trees where they complete their mating. During mating, the female actually takes sustenance from the male and therefore may mate several times to gather enough energy to complete her task of scattering eggs, one at a time, under milkweed leaves. Her problem is ﬁnding enough milkweed.
So plant milkweed. There are many species of milkweed. To ﬁnd out what to plant in your area you can check monarchjointventure.org
Although there are several places to see Monarchs, Monarch Grove at Pismo Beach has traditionally been the largest gathering on the West coast. The optimal time to see them is usually between October and February. I would
highly recommend putting this on your “bucket list” and doing it sooner rather than later. It is a beautiful way to spend a California day. If you would like to see a short video of the grove, check out monarchbutterﬂy.org ~ Bob Jaussaud