The Pismo Monarch Grove is open once again but visitors should expect to see far fewer butterflies in the trees.
“Right now, we have about 800 monarchs in our grove,” California State Parks Interpreter Mallory Claassen said Wednesday. “Last year at this time we had roughly 12,000 monarchs.”
Claassen said more than 20,000 monarchs were counted at the Pismo Monarch Grove the previous year.
The population of monarchs worldwide has been declining year after year and the most recent count from the U.S. Center for Biological Diversity found just 150 million monarchs fluttered in 2016. That’s a 68 percent decline over the past 22 years, according to the CBD.
Grover Beach resident Cindy Duggan brought her grandkids to see the grove Wednesday, after waiting anxiously for weeks for a chance to see the winged beauties.
“We’ve been stopping by every day almost for the last two months and she’s been waiting to see the butterflies,” Duggan said of her granddaughter.
At first glance, the trees appear bare. But with a special lens, Duggan and her grandkids see the gorgeous wings of butterflies.
“It’s just amazing, I love her enthusiasm,” Duggan said.
Duggan’s experience is one that biologists and environmental protectors hope to preserve for future generations, but the loss of a key food source for monarchs is raising concern.
“Loss of habitat,” Claassen said. “Milkweed is the plant monarchs lay their eggs on, what larva eat, so it’s very important to the monarch life cycle.”
Erratic weather patterns, climate change, and pesticides are destroying the milkweed, thus, starving out the butterflies.
In addition to literally planting more milkweed, Claassen said there are ways to help without even getting your hands dirty.
“One of the most important things you can do to help the population is being educated and visiting here is a great way to do that,” Claassen said.
Docent-led tours are offered daily at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.