Monarch butterfly in San Diego

National Butterfly Awareness Day is Saturday, June 1

curtains coming soon

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Saturday, June 1, is National Butterfly Awareness Day.

There are 265 species of butterflies that call California home. The queen of these butterflies is the monarch (Danaus plexippus) .



Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Monarch caterpillars, September 2011, San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Monarch caterpillar chrysalis, September 2011, San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I caught a little wormy
A-crawlin’ up a tree.
He wiggled here
He wiggled there
He wiggled right at me.
I put him in a shoebox
And told him “Stay right there.”
But when I opened up the box
A butterfly was there.
I don’t know how it happened
I couldn’t if I tried
‘Cause only Mother Nature
Can make a butterfly.
(Author unknown)

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I just discovered that up in Encinitas, at 450 Ocean View Avenue, is The Monarch Program.

Location of The Monarch Program in Encinitas

View Larger Map

That’s where I’m going on Saturday! They have a 1200-square foot vivarium there. And they’ve been there since 1990! I never knew!

If you happen to be in Balboa Park, check out the two large milkweed plants at the two entrances to the Botanic Building. Monarch butterflies love milkweeds, even needing them for their mere survival, and there are always a couple of butterflies, some caterpillars, and some chrysalises on the bushes. That’s where the second and third pictures above and the final two pictures were taken.


It wasn’t until 1975 that scientists discovered the overwintering sites in central Mexico. At that time, they found a butterfly that had been tagged in Ontario, Canada. There are about 210 overwintering sites in California, with the main one being Pacific Grove, which has taken on the moniker Butterfly Town USA.

The monarch butterfly is the official insect or butterfly for Alabama, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, Vermont, and West Virginia.

There are three overwintering sites in San Diego County: Grape Street Park in Balboa Park, Presidio Park in Old Town, and the UCSD Coast Site on Azul Street. The best time to see these overwintering monarchs is in November, December, and January.

Milkweed flower

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Monarch butterfly

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

16 thoughts on “National Butterfly Awareness Day is Saturday, June 1

  1. Naomi

    I’m from southern Ontario and we see a lot of Monarchs here. Elementary school classes often get caterpillars from the Butterfly Conservatory in Cambridge, watch the cycle, and then release them after they emerge from the cocoon. It’s pretty cool to see.


  2. babso2you

    They suggest that here in the foothills folks plant the milkweed to encourage them to come here. They do fly through. We have loads of swallowtails! Huge butterflies! Can’t wait to see the photos Russel!


    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      It’s easier nowadays than it was back then. Back then there was a little piece of paper covered with plastic or vinyl attached to a wing. Nowadays there are little microchips which can even relay current GPS data.


      1. The Wanderlust Gene

        Thanks for that. Still – when you think of the delicacy of a butterfly’s wing and it travelling hundreds = even thousands – of miles with anything adhered to its wing it seems unfair … 🙂


        1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

          It does in a way, but on the other hand it helps us understand them better so that we can preserve their habitats. After all, Mexico was destroying their habitat until the world realized that they overwinter down there. Now they have monarch preserves which have turned into tourist attractions for them.


  3. cbnwali

    The world has so many days dedicated to this and that I find it very difficult to keep up. Never knew there was a day for butterflies and that’s a beautiful one especially tracing its lineage 🙂


  4. reocochran

    Oh oh! I just posted my June first blog! I missed my chance to put this butterfly awareness note on it! I may add it for other viewers than my ‘regulars!’


  5. Ruby Heath

    In late summer and early fall, a special generation of Monarchs is born. These Monarchs live much longer, up to eight months. Triggered by the decreasing daylight and angle of the sun, these butterflies delay sexual maturity and begin flying south toward the overwintering grounds, up to 2,000 miles away. The Monarchs feed on flower nectar during the journey, attempting to build up fat reserves which will enable them to survive the winter months. At night they may cluster together in small groups, but as winter approaches, they move on to more permanent overwintering sites.



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