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December 9, 2009 > Spectacular monarchs of migration

Spectacular monarchs of migration

By Meenu Gupta
Photos By Courtesy of Ira Bletz

Basking in the sun, scores of monarch butterflies flap their wings and soar to migrate, providing one of greatest spectacles to nature lovers. Monarchs are a type of milkweed butterfly. The caterpillars feed on milkweed leaves. The Rocky Mountains divide North America's monarch butterflies into two populations. Monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains migrate to the mountains near the small town of Angangueo in Michoacan, Mexico. Monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains migrate to the California coast including sites in the East Bay like Ardenwood. "The butterflies who are here now are the great-great-grandchildren of the butterflies that were here last winter. They have never been here before but somehow know how to get here. That is amazing," said Supervising Naturalist, Ira Bletz. "We have had butterflies from as far away as southern British Columbia migrate to Ardenwood."

Each year monarch butterflies migrate hundreds or even thousands of miles when the weather grows cold. During the winter season they roost in huge colonies and head back north in spring. Along the way, they mate and lay eggs. Those eggs hatch and grow into adults that continue to fly north, laying eggs as they go. These eggs grow into adults that fly back to where their "great-grandparents" began. But no single butterfly survives the entire round trip.

Learn about the life cycle of the monarch butterfly during a brief skit at the Ardenwood Historic Farm. "Monarchs for Kids" includes puppets and a skit to teach about the monarch's life cycle for children ages two to eight years. Young children will enjoy an interactive puppet show and learn all about monarch eggs, caterpillars, chrysalides and butterflies. Then they will take a short hike to see these amazing insects in action. The walks are a guided visit to the over-wintering site. Search for clusters of butterflies hanging from the branches of eucalyptus trees and learn about the mysterious migration of these majestic insects. Meet at the Granary for these half-mile walks that last approximately one hour and are suitable for all ages. On the new year's day visit a monarch butterfly over-wintering site. Discover the amazing migration habits of these tiny creatures and how they survive the long cold season up in our eucalyptus trees by using spotting scopes to see these magnificent creatures up close and personal.

Unravel the mysteries of the monarch butterfly watching a slide show, 'Marvelous Monarchs' and take an easy hike out to the eucalyptus grove to search for butterflies overwintering at Ardenwood. This program will be canceled in case it rains. Children will make a fluttery monarch wand and fly it out to the monarch grove to say goodbye to the butterflies until next year in February. The migration of monarch butterflies is one of the most extraordinary phenomena in all of nature that your family will enjoy. All programs are free but there is an entrance fee for the park.

Monarch Butterfly Walks
Saturday, December 12
Sunday, December 13
1 p.m. and 2 p.m

Monarchs for kids
Saturday, December 12, December 19, January 9, 23
Sunday, December 27, January 3, 17
11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Marvelous Monarchs
Saturday, December 26
Sunday, December 13, December 20
11a.m. -12:30 p.m.

New Year's day Butterfly Walks
Friday, January 1
11 a.m

Monarch butterfly walks
Every Saturday and Sunday in January
1:30 p.m.

Meet the Monarchs
Saturday, January 2, 16, 30
Sunday, January 10, 24
11 a.m - noon

Farewell to Monarchs Day
Saturday, February 6
11a.m. - 3 p.m.
Ardenwood Historic Farm
34600 Ardenwood Blvd., Fremont
(510) 544-2797
$ 2/adults, $ 1/children, children 3 years and under are free

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