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January 6, 2010 > Monarch Butterfly learning adventures

Monarch Butterfly learning adventures

By Meenu Gupta

More artwork than insects, Monarch butterflies mass migration ranging over hundreds or even thousands of miles, creates a visual delight that never fails to evoke awe. Also called milkweed butterflies, on the west of the continental divide, they overwinter along the coast of California, breeding on milkweed plants as far north as British Columbia. Thousands of Monarch butterflies converge to these magical places during their migration to warmer climates. One such magical place to witness the spectacle in the East Bay is Ardenwood Historic Farm.

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. "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.

For those who really want to be immersed in lepidoptery - the study of butterflies - and those who appreciate nature's beauty the farm has organized programs to learn about the incredible journey these tiny animals make each year and the increasing threats to their survival. Tour Ardenwood's monarch overwintering site, looking for clusters of butterflies hanging from eucalyptus branches and learn about the mysterious migration of these majestic insects. Learn about the migration and life cycle of our winter resident butterflies through slide and puppet shows for all ages. Then make a fluttery monarch wand and fly it out to the monarch grove to say goodbye to the butterflies until next year.

"Monarchs for Kids" includes a 30-minute slide show to teach about the monarch's life cycle for children ages three to six years. Young children will enjoy an interactive puppet show and learn all about monarch eggs, caterpillars, chrysalides and butterflies. Children will also enjoy 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. 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
Every Saturday and Sunday in January
1:30 p.m.

Meet the Monarchs
Sat., Jan 2, 16, 30
Sun., Jan 10, 24
11a.m. - noon

Monarchs for kids
Sat., Jan 9, 23
Sun., Jan 3, 17
11a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Farewell to Monarchs Day
Saturday, February 6
11a.m. - 3 p.m.


Ardenwood Historic Farm
34600 Ardenwood Blvd., Fremont
(510) 544-2797
www.ebparks.org

Park Entrance Fee:
$ 2/adults, $ 1/children, children 3 years and under are free

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