Monarch Butterflies

Monarchs to Milkweed

Monarch butterflies are residents of Santa Barbara year-round and rely on a variety of native plants at each stage of their lives. 

From the minute, ridged eggs, whence barely visible caterpillars emerge, to first adult flight, monarch butterflies offer an exciting flutter of color to any garden.

The Garden has a long history of interest in Monarchs. Correspondence dating from the early 80's, between former Director Ralph Philbrick and scientists at the Smithsonian Institute and Harvard University discussed which tree species monarchs overwintered in before they chose Australian native eucalyptus.

We continue the tradition with lectures and a family friendly Garden Explorations class. Click here to view our upcoming classes & events

The Marvel of Metamorphosis

The opportunity to see a caterpillar go from a velvety soft, carnival striped little creature to a hard jewel-like chrysalis in a mere two minutes is nothing short of magic. The contents of the pupa 'liquefy' and over a month or so, reconstitute into a butterfly.

Come to the Garden and you may see one of our 'butterfly bouquets' in action. If you are lucky, you will be able to witness this magical transformation first-hand as the caterpillar transforms into a chrysalis or a butterfly emerges from its chrysalis. 

Monarch Butterfly FAQ

What do monarch butterflies eat?Girl with Monarch Butterfly - SBBG Photo website

Larvae will only eat milkweed - like the native narrowleaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) we have in the Garden. The adult butterflies eat nectar and water.

How do monarchs eat?

Monarch butterflies use a straw-like tube called a proboscis to suck up nectar. It curls under the head when not in use.

Why do monarchs hang in trees?

Trees offer monarchs protection from predators, temperature, and moisture. Trees are essential to monarch survival.

What can I do to help monarchs?

Monarch caterpillars require milkweed to make it to adulthood. Planting species like the California native narrowleaf milkweed in your home garden, provides the perfect nursery for these budding butterflies and promotes a healthy native habitat for other beneficial insects.

Where can I see monarch butterflies? 

Right here at the Garden! We have several patches of milkweed around the meadow, Arroyo Section, and along Porter Trail that are annual homes to many caterpillars, while the adults enjoy the gorgeous flowers of our native plants.

Monarch butterflies can also be found in abundance November-February at the Goleta Monarch Butterfly Grove.

Articles and Additional Resources

Planting a future for monarch butterflies (CBS News, March 8, 2015)