Behind the Scenes: Pismo’s Monarch Butterflies

Just off of Highway 1 lies a butterfly utopia. Each and every year, tens of thousands of monarch butterflies migrate to the Monarch Butterfly Grove in Pismo Beach, Calif. to escape the harsh northern winters and to find their temporary warm haven. But why do they come to Pismo?

Megan Healy, our audio/video reporter, came up with the idea to find out more about the monarch butterflies in Pismo. “I know Mustang News and other local media has covered the butterflies before, but I wanted to take an environmental approach. I was really curious to find out why the monarch population is declining and why the Monarch Grove in Pismo is where they migrate to.”

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As our strategy and engagement reporter, it was my first duty to find out what the community wanted to know about the monarch butterfly. My search started off with our community: what did they want to know more about the butterflies? “I’ve always wanted to know more about the Western monarchs. Why do they come to Pismo? What makes that grove so special?”, shared fourth year architectural engineering student Sarah Pascual.

My biggest surprise through both the community engagement report and the social network report was that, overall, the community knew nothing about the monarch butterflies. I knew from these reports that it was important we focused on general information about the monarchs, but also made sure we told the bigger story along the way: why the monarchs are important.

With these factors in mind, we spent a beautiful Saturday at the grove.


Honestly, we couldn’t have picked a better day to venture out to the grove. The sun was shining, the grove was filled with families, students, and travelers, and the butterflies were everywhere. Everyone at the grove was incredibly friendly and eager to share their experiences and thoughts about the monarch butterflies.

Megan Lynch, our interactive reporter, was able to get some great interviews with families and other visitors, and learned why they came to this grove and what the butterflies mean to them.


“The kids were so cute. I’m so happy I was able to interview them because they seemed really excited to talk about the butterflies,” said Megan Lynch, our interactive reporter.

Mikaela Duhs, our writer, wasn’t able to make it out to the monarch grove with us, but ended up having an amazing interview on her own. “Professor Villablanca painted such a great picture for me of why the butterflies are important and how we can help them,” Mikaela shared, of their interview. Villablanca shared this insightful thought during her interview:

“… it doesn’t matter how much milkweed we have, how many groves you have, if we don’t have the butterflies to utilize them… I do the little bits that can be done by the masses to make a difference.”

Megan Healy, our audio and visual reporter, was able to talk to great sources at the grove.

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To our surprise, we ended up talking to a couple who had traveled all the way from France! They spoke little English, but Zachary Donnenfield (who tagged along with us) shocked us all by speaking fluent French with them and telling us he was a French citizen! It goes without saying that we were all speechless. We ended up talking to Raymond and Minh Levant for almost an hour, and they were absolutely thrilled to be interviewed for our project.

We’re so excited to share all the information we gathered throughout these past two weeks. While plenty of stories have been done about the monarch butterflies, few have been as in-depth as this one, and we hope to spread the word about why the monarchs come to the monarch grove in Pismo Beach and provide insight to their decline.