Local Educational Programs
Field Trips to the Facility
The Monarch Program offers a unique educational experience for all ages at the facility. Basic topics covered are the life cycle, different butterfly species, predator and prey defense mechanisms, monarch migration and butterfly gardening. Visitors can see butterfly eggs, touch a caterpillar, view different species of butterfly chrysalises, and have close encounters with adult butterflies while feeding them fruit inside the Vivarium.
All classes are age specific. For example, children will have drawing and learning activities, watch a developmentally appropriate video about butterflies, learn about plant growth by planting seeds, and end with a question answer period. Older children and adults will also see a video and have a question and answer period, but the main focus will be on monarch migration behavior and butterfly gardening. All field trips are scheduled for late morning and early afternoon.
Local butterfly enthusiasts visit various locations from the coast to the deserts every year from March through October. They monitor the conditions of various butterfly host plants and their populations every year. The groups are often small and travel to selected sites sporadically because of climate conditions. Many locations offer a great photo opportunity, and there are always surprises about the population and status of the butterflies.
Beginning in mid November there are dozens of volunteers along the coast of California estimating the population of monarchs at overwintering sites. This activity usually lasts until the second week of December. It is called the Monarch Thanksgiving Count because most butterflies are settled in their selected sites by late November.
Volunteers throughout the United States and eastern Canada place self adhesive tags on the wings of monarchs to tack their migration. Two designs of tags are in use today. One is rectangular and folded over the forewing near the thorax. The other is circular in shape and placed in the middle of one of the hindwinds. The latter has become popular because it is a simple process. Both tags include a series of numbers and a toll free number to report the recovery. Some more recent tags use an e-mail address instead of a telephone number. A large number of live monarchs have been captured and the tag information was recorded before it was set free again.
Butterfly Gardening Presentations
Local associates of The Monarch Program are experienced in teaching people how to attract a variety of butterflies to a backyard garden. Presentations include information about which plants to use and why they attract butterflies. Discussions will include their flight period, flowers they prefer, arranging the garden according to the sun’s angle, selecting a size, and the use of soils and fertilizers.