Natural beauty at Gilroy Gardens...
Monarch butterfly season at Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park is usually July through November. Between July 12, 2005 and October 23, 2008, we raised and released over 1360 butterflies. Isn't that amazing?
A Little Lesson
Butterflies are in the insect order Lepidoptera, which is derived from a Greek word that means "scale wing". Scientists call the Monarch butterfly Danaus plexippus, which literally means "sleepy transformation".
The picture to the right is a female Monarch; the one on the bottom is a male. Can you see the difference? The male has a small black dot on each of the bottom wings. These are called scent spots. Females don't have them. Another difference is that the veins on the female's wings are thicker than the male's.
Most Monarch butterflies live only about two weeks. Not a very long time, is it? But...once it's time to migrate south some may live as long as six months!
East of the Rocky Mountains many Monarchs are tagged every year before they migrate south. In 2006, for the first time in Gilroy Gardens' history, we tagged Monarch Butterflies! We created our own tags using waterproof labels from a horticultural supplier because at that time most butterfly tag suppliers would not ship west of the Rockies. That was partly because Monarchs here do not migrate any further than Pacific Grove, CA at the closest and northern Baja California at the furthest. Monarchs east of the Rockies are known to migrate all the way down to an area near Mexico City, Mexico where they roost in the oyamel fir trees. There are five Monarch sanctuaries in Mexico.
Butterflies tagged during the 2006 season at Gilroy Gardens had white tags that look like the picture to the right. Letters in the top line meant "Bonfante Gardens Family Theme Park", the second line was a phone number, and the third line represented the unique letters/numbers we created for each butterfly. That year, 460 Monarch butterflies were raised and released. Of those, we tagged 132. In addition, we also carefully caught and tagged 51 "wild" butterflies.
In 2007, 224 Monarch butterflies were raised and released. We did not tag any butterflies during the 2007 season due to the lower population. The season started late and there did not seem to be the population explosion like we'd had in 2006.
Our 2008 season was not very good at all as far as the Monarch population at Gilroy Gardens was concerned. We only raised and released 49 Monarchs, and as a result, no butterflies were tagged.
To Learn More...
Visit our Monarch Butterfly Exhibit inside Monarch Garden to learn more about these wonderful creatures. And, sometime around July, see them in various stages of their life cycle - from egg to butterfly. While you're at the Exhibit, during our butterfly season, you may be lucky enough to see some of the Monarchs released into Monarch Garden. Talk to the Docent on duty there or pick up an educational butterfly activity booklet from our Welcome Center. Our booklets include:
- Butterfly Information
- Fun Facts and Trivia
- Educational activities such as labeling the Anatomy, Life Cycle and Migration Map
- Fun activities including a Monarch Word Find and a Coloring Page
- Plus...a page for you to take notes or draw your own pictures!