Experience the butterflies in SoCal

The Butterfly Pavilion at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County offers a close look at 30 different species of butterflies. PHOTO Courtesy Natural History Museum of L.A. County

By Michele E. Buttelman

Signal Staff Writer

Butterflies are magical. But in addition to their beauty, these delicate insects are an important part of the food chain. Butterflies, like bees, are important pollinators. 

It’s unlikely the Santa Clarita Valley will soon experience another butterfly experience like we had in 2019, when millions of butterflies migrated through Southern California, captivating onlookers with the colorful spectacle of clouds of butterflies. The orange butterflies, called Painted Ladies, which travel annually from the deserts of Southern California to the Pacific Northwest.

However, you can still get your “butterfly fix,” if you know where to look. 

Attracting butterflies

The Santa Clarita Valley has a good climate for attracting butterflies. Plant butterfly-friendly plants and provide a shallow water source, such as a bird bath, to attract butterflies to your garden.

Butterflies such as Asters, phlox, goldenrod, milkweed, pineapple sage, purple coneflower, verbena, coreopsis, dianthus, nasturtium, French marigolds, Heliotrope, impatiens, cosmos and zinnias. Nectar-rich shrubs include: Azalea, butterfly bush, glossy abelia and trailing Lantana.

Where are the butterflies?

If you want to see large numbers of butterflies, visit one of these seasonal butterfly exhibits, or butterfly gardens, in California. 

Butterfly Pavilion

March 18 through Sept. 6

900 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles 90007

Info hm.org/experience-nhm/exhibitions-

The butterflies are again taking flight at the Natural History Museum’s Butterfly Pavilion, where guests will be able to stroll through the Nature Gardens on the way to the pavilion. There is a limited number of guests that will be allowed inside the Butterfly Pavilion. Currently, general public tickets will go on sale March 18-21. If you miss these dates, check back as the museum will be releasing additional tickets throughout the exhibit days.

This springtime exhibition features hundreds of butterflies, colorful native plants and plenty of natural light to help you see these creatures shimmer. With lots of flight space and a variety of resting spots, this one of the best views in California of these amazing insects.

This exhibit offers 30 different species, including California natives such as the Mourning Cloak and Buckeye.

Discover caterpillars munching on milkweed, chrysalises dangling beneath shrubs and witness adult butterflies performing important pollination as they feed on blooming flowers. You’ll learn about different species of butterflies, including White Peacocks and Painted Ladies. 

The Living Desert Zoo 

Open Daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

47900 Portola Ave., Palm Desert 92260

Info livingdesert.org

The Living Desert features trails where you can see colorful butterflies flutter past and hummingbirds hover near in this magical garden paradise. Visitors can see countless butterflies representing more than 30 species, including the Monarch, Giant Owl, Queen, Zebra Longwing, Buckeye, Blue Morpho and Painted Ladies.

Entry is limited with timed ticketing in order to pace the number of guests. But besides the butterlies, you can also see giraffe feeding from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Wildlife Wonders Show. Food venues are open for take-away.

General admission tickets (13+) are $24.95, children are $14.94 and seniors (62+) are $22.95. Children under 3 are free.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park Butterfly Jungle

15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido 92027

Info: dzsafaripark.org/butterflyjungle

This year, the Butterfly Jungle is a paid ticketed reservation. The tickets are $60 per household group up to 6 people.

Here you will learn about the butterfly life cycle and become immersed in the wonder of butterflies in the Hidden Jungle. Each experience lasts approximately 30 minutes from check-in until exit.  The Safari Park’s Hidden Jungle is home to the zoo’s butterflies, and inside the rain forest greenhouse, you’ll see thousands of butterflies above and around you as they sip nectar from flowers and feeders.

Both the zoo and the park are open, so make a day of it and enjoy all the sights to see. However, reservations are required in order to regulate the number of visitors.

Hallberg Butterfly Gardens

8687 Oak Grove Ave, Sebastopol 95472

Info hallbergbutterflygardens.org

The Hallberg Butterfly Gardens are a wildlife sanctuary and an open habitat with dirt trails. It’s nestled among the apple orchards of Western Sonoma County and covers nine acres of overgrown vines and thickets, flowering pathways and meadows. The self-guided tours are by appointment only. While the gardens are open April until October, the best time to see the butterflies is from  April to June. This is when the most abundant populations of the large Swallowtail butterflies can be observed. 

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