Visit the Monarch Butterfly Preserve – It’s the Season!

It’s butterfly season in Santa Barbara!

And the Coronado Butterfly Preserve is a great place to spend the afternoon enjoying the monarchs during their over-winter migration. These little guys cannot survive harsh winters so they travel, some up to 3000 miles, to roost in the Eucalyptus trees of Santa Barbara County.

Our Outing:

We made a morning excursion out of seeing the monarchs. The boys loved trekking through the “forest” to find the butterflies. We crossed a bridge over a muddy drying creek bed and they used their binoculars to try to distinguish the butterflies from the leaves.  We then emerged on the other side onto a “pasture” which they enjoyed exploring. They were especially delighted when they found the perfect climbing tree teeming with other children.  We cautiously looked over the cliffs at the gorgeous view of the beach and ocean and then settled down for a yummy picnic lunch. It was a fun, memorable outing that presented several great photo ops.

Directions:

Driving from Highway 101, exit Storke Rd./Glen Annie and head south (away from the mountains). Turn right on Hollister Avenue, drive about 1.2 miles and turn left on Coronado Drive. The entrance to the Preserve is at the end of Coronado Drive. Park near the end. There is a hill with a big sign at the bottom with information about the butterflies. This is where you start!

Butterfly Tips:

  • Show up on a sunny day, during the afternoon when they’ll be flying. Look closely at clumps of leaves on the trees, they may just be butterflies!
  • The Coronado Butterfly Preserve is funded by visitor donations. Leave a donation at box located near the entrance to help keep this preserve beautiful.
  • Bring binoculars, sneakers, a sweater (it gets foggy fast) and a picnic lunch.

Fun Monarch Facts:

The Monarch is unique among butterflies in that it is the only species of butterfly that does not hibernate, but migrates in changing seasons. It undergoes four changes in form (metamorphoses) during its lifetime:

  1. The monarch begins as a tiny egg.
  2. In the second stage it becomes a black, yellow and white striped caterpillar (larva). During this stage, the caterpillar sheds its skin (molts) up to four times as it grows to its full length of about two inches.
  3. In its third stage, the monarch forms a protective covering called a chrysalis, or pupa. This pupa is shiny and green with gold speckles.
  4. In its final stage, the monarch emerges from the pupa as a beautiful black and orange butterfly.

This entire process takes about a month. There are usually three to four generations of monarchs produced each year.

The male Monarch can be distinguished from the female by the two black spots on the insect’s hind wings found within the thinner black webbing. The female’s webbing is thicker and she has no spots.

Male MonarchFemale Monarch

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