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April 23, 2008 > Flying jewels sparkle at Coyote Hills

Flying jewels sparkle at Coyote Hills

By Sargunjot Kaur
Photos By courtesy of Dino Labiste

Sometime before the Eighth Century, the word "buterfleoge" - butterfly - was chosen for an insect that was believed to land in kitchens and 'steal' uncovered butter and cream. At Coyote Hills, visitors and photographers alike get a chance to 'steal' a look at this exceptionally colorful species transforming from short-legged caterpillars to captivating adult butterflies equipped with brightly colored wings and knobbed antennae.

The western Monarchs make an incredible seasonal migration from the northwest United States to roosting sites along the Pacific coast of California like Coyote Hills. "We wanted to celebrate the monarch butterflies and the other species for making it through their journey," said Dino Labiste, the naturalist presenting the butterflies at Coyote Hills. The celebration will begin with a Family Day on Saturday, April 26 including a slide show of the phenomenal life cycle of the Monarch's transformation: caterpillar, chrysalis, then butterfly - followed by face-to-face visits in the Nectar Garden to search for these flying jewels in their various stages of development.

Similar to natural disasters like hurricane Katrina, that stripped homes from people, deforestation and the pioneering of oriental flowers over native species has led to the destruction of many natural habitats of monarch butterflies. "The nectar garden here [Coyote Hills] is an ongoing restoration project to encourage the butterflies and birds to come feed and nest in the urban garden," said Labiste. Currently, over five different species of Monarch Butterflies visit the Coyote Hills nectar garden lined with milkweed plants, one of the suitable native host plants for butterfly caterpillars. These plants provide good shelter for eggs and caterpillars. "The females lay eggs in the milkweed, where the eggs hatch into larvae - a feeding machine. When the larvae reach a certain stage they form caterpillars which hook onto the underside of a milkweed leaf or hang on the drenches. They transform from a liquidly body to an adult butterfly, all in the process of at least 30 days," outlined Labiste of the Monarch Butterflies' intriguing development cycle.

At the Monarch Butterfly event, Labiste and other naturalists will give advice of how to transform urban bland backyards to wildlife-friendly habitat. "I encourage people to have their own wildlife gardens and refer many people to nurseries with plants, such as milkweed, that attract the butterflies and birds," said Labiste. Family Day, from 9:30 - 10:30 a.m. on April 26, is a prelude event to the Ninth Annual Butterfly Festival on Saturday, May 10 (held from 10 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.), dedicated to increasing the numbers and species of butterflies migrating and residing in Bay Area landscapes.

"We have a lot of photographers coming in with their big cameras capturing stunning pictures of the butterflies in the garden, which are displayed during the festival," said Labiste. Family Day and the Butterfly Festival will include educational speakers who will talk about types of butterflies, butterfly and include bird arts and crafts, musicians, slide show presentations, and educational display tables. Experts will give advice to help visitors create a butterfly habitat in their own garden. However, the highlight of the festival is the release of the Monarch butterflies at the end of the day. To witness such a natural spectacle is an experience not to be missed and never to be forgotten.


Family Day: Monarch Butterflies
Saturday, April 26
9:30 - 10:30 a.m.
Coyote Hills Regional Park
8000 Patterson Ranch Rd., Fremont
(510) 795-9385


Ninth Annual Bird and Butterfly Festival
Saturday, May 10
10 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Coyote Hills Regional Park
8000 Patterson Ranch Rd., Fremont
(510) 795-9385


Automobile entry to Coyote Hills - $5

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