A Matter of Habitat

A planned butterfly enclosure will offer visitors to Pacific Grove a chance to view monarchs from May through August.

For tourists who come to Pacific Grove, enticed by the promise of “Butterfly Town U.S.A.,” now is a good time to visit the Monarch Grove Sanctuary. The eucalyptus on the southern edge will be aflutter with orange-winged beauties, a welcome home to the hundreds of monarchs that migrate there every winter.

But for those who stop by in July? They just might feel duped.

“We have a bit of a challenge when tourists come here in the summer,” says Lori Mannel, executive director of the P.G. Museum of Natural History. “They say, ‘Where are the monarchs?’”

But thanks to a $50,000 planning grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Mannel and her colleagues expect that to change: A butterfly pavilion in the museum’s native plant gardens is in the works, an enclosed structure that will be home to a variety of native butterflies in all of their life stages, from caterpillar to chrysalis to winged.

With the addition, the museum is set to join the ranks of other natural history museums – including the Smithsonian, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles – that have similar enclosures. “It will perfectly accompany the experience of the museum,” Mannel says, “and serve as a wonderful example to see how butterflies are supported by native habitats.”

The pavilion’s butterflies will be farmed and sourced from the Central Valley. In order to protect against genetic intrusion into the overwintering monarch population, the pavilion will only be open from May through August. If all goes as planned, the enclosure will open in summer 2015.

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