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November 19, 2013 > ArdenwoodÕs Ômonarch motelÕ is back in business

ArdenwoodÕs Ômonarch motelÕ is back in business

By Sara Giusti

Fall and winter monarch butterflies show the world what it means to travel to a place without ever ÒknowingÓ where it is Ð even without the help of Google Maps.

From as far north as Canada, monarch butterflies migrate to select California locations along the Pacific Coast mid-fall to escape the chill of winter. Ardenwood Historic Farm is one of the monarch butterflyÕs winter homes due to its mild climate, availability of eucalyptus trees to shield them from wind and provide warmth, and its plethora of milkweed, a monarch caterpillarÕs only food source and adult monarchÕs main food source.

The monarchÕs migration is a romantic mystery. The current generation visiting Ardenwood have never been here before and were never Ògiven directions.Ó To top it off, the migrating generationÕs parents never came here either, nor the grandparents, so migrating monarchs donÕt even know any other butterflies that have made the trek. Somehow they just know where to go once winter is on its way.

Enter the romance of the migration. ÒThese monarchs have the responsibility of saving the species,Ó said Ardenwood Naturalist Christina Garcia. Once the threat of frost and cold is over Ðusually around ValentineÕs Day Ð the monarchs get ready to head back up north, mating and laying eggs on milkweed as they go. Intriguingly, these overwintering monarchs live longer than the usual six week lifespan. Their total lifeÕs purpose is to ensure their continuation.

While it is unclear how long the monarchs have been migrating to Ardenwood, it was first documented in the mid-1980s once East Bay Regional Parks took over the property. ÒWe donÕt think they were coming here during the time [Ardenwood] was a farm,Ó said Garcia. Ardenwood staff has the diary of Clara Patterson, wife of original Ardenwood farmer George Patterson, from the 1850s. ÒShe would have definitely written about it,Ó explained Garcia.

Unfortunately, monarch populations have been decreasing due to drought, urban development, deforestation, and pesticides. Thus, it is even more important to curate the monarchÕs special overwintering places; Ardenwood Farm is an excellent example of monarch butterfly preservation and awareness.

Ardenwood is preparing for the monarchÕs official return on Sunday, November 24 with several butterfly programs held into the New Year. Interpretative staff will educate attendees about the monarchs: their migration (Return of the Monarchs), lifecycle (Marvelous Monarchs), or reasons why monarchs chose Ardenwood (Monarch Walk). After a slideshow, staff will guide the group to the monarchÕs special overwintering place. Spotting scopes will be available to get a closer look at the monarchs as well. Since the butterflies are cold-blooded, good, sunny weather will bring out better activity. On colder, cloudier days, the monarchs huddle together under the eucalyptus leaves.

A self-guided tour is recommended after completing a staff-guided program to know where the monarchÕs special place awaits. Ardenwood is also working on training volunteers to guide butterfly lovers to the monarchÕs winter home during days and times without scheduled programs.

Make sure to stop by Ardenwood for beautiful cascades of orange this winter. This Òmonarch motelÓ is definitely a sight you donÕt want to miss.

Return of the Monarchs
Sunday, Nov 24, Friday, Nov 29, & Saturday, Nov 30
1 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Marvelous Monarchs
Saturdays, Dec 14, 21, 28 & Sundays, Dec 15, 22, 29
11 a.m. - Noon

Monarch Walk
Saturdays, Dec 14, 21, 28 & Sundays, Dec 15, 22, 29
1:30 p.m.

Camino de Monarcas
Program in Spanish
Sunday, Dec 22
2 p.m.

New YearÕs Day Butterfly Walks
Wednesday, Jan 1
11:30 a.m. & 1:30 p.m.

Ardenwood Historic Farm
34600 Ardenwood Blvd., Fremont
(510) 44-2797

Free with paid park admission
(Nov 24 fees: $6/adults, $5/seniors, $4/children, under 4 years/free
Nov 25 to March 31 fees: Tuesday-Sunday $3 adults, $2 children, under 4 years/free)

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