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Jan 31, 2014 8:27 PM by Pearce Bley, KSBY News

Monarch migration numbers down overall, up on Central Coast

The number of monarch butterflies spending the winter in Mexico plunged this year. A report released by the World Wildlife Fund and Mexico's Environment Department shows the lowest number of butterflies there since studies began in 1993.

But are numbers also down on the Central Coast? The answer is surprising. They're actually higher than they've been in the past ten years.

"This year we counted at least 34,000," said Suzy Will. "We have the most this year and the others in California seem to be down a little bit."

Will volunteers at the Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove, but she doesn't have an explanation as to why the population has gone up.

"Every year we don't know," said Will. "We're the observers, they tell us what's going on."

The population might be the largest in the past ten years, but Will says they used to see numbers around 200,000.

"Most of our wide open spaces now have been filled with wineries, agriculture and buildings causing us to lose that open space," she said. "Put in a drought and that's why the overall population has dropped."

Will says that planting milkweed in your garden is the best way to help the butterfly population.

"The adults sip the nectar," she said. "And then on the way back the females lay their eggs and you have a monarch way station."

The best part, besides having some cool insects for tenants, is that it costs next to nothing.

"If you have two or three plants you invest maybe $18," said Will.

But it will cost you even less if you head out to the grove on Saturday for Monarch Recognition Day. They'll be giving out milkweed seeds for free and will also celebrate with a parade, cake and other festivities.

The day begins at 10 a.m. and will go until 4 p.m. As always, admission to the grove is free.

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