Thousands of monarch butterflies stop at Pismo Beach on their migration to warmer weather. Like college students to winter break, they make a trip down to Mexico to avoid the cold winter. But, some do settle for Southern California.
Except, there is something a little morbid about this. Those white-black-orange butterflies that leave Pismo Beach around March, will never come back. Their life span is six months and some will never make it to Mexico. But their offspring continue their journey.
The Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove opens for the season in October and closes February. On January 29 this year the count was about 20,000 monarchs.
The population has been in decline. Xerces Society counted the 2016 winter population in California and there was a 75% decrease from the original population in 1997.
The decline has many influences but climate change might be the one that affects California the most. With a record cold winter and abrupt storms, it ends up killing off many monarchs.
They also face a decline in their overwinter habitat, and the effects of an increasing frequency of extreme weather events such as drought and severe storms, and extremes in hot and cold temperatures. — World Wildlife Organization
These extreme temperatures and the death rate of the monarch butterflies are signs of climate change.
According the David Wolfe, “The iconic and beloved North American monarch butterfly is one of the species that has difficulty adjusting to our new climate-stressed world.”
This sign of climate change can be seen on a local level for California because it is a primary home to overwintering monarchs. As the climate changes monarchs instinctually follow the warmth, but they can’t predict abrupt storms.