SAN DIEGO — Sometimes the best stories come and go - and even fly away. Such was the case for the next Zevely Zone story fluttering your way. It starts with a video that shows Gabe Valdez brushing his teeth with a Monarch butterfly not only sitting on his nose but living on his face.
"A butterfly landed on my face when I was walking down the street one day, she stuck around she stayed on my face for five days. I'd set her aside when I took a shower or went to sleep but besides that she was on my face for everything," said Valdez.
Last fall, Gabe told me it happened a few months ago. I told him if it ever happened again to call me, but by the time I arrived that time around to see two butterflies living on his face he said they had just flown away.
"I kind of feel like you are punking me," I said to Gabe during our interview.
"No," he responded to which I said, "Most people would just swat it off of their face. How come you didn't do that?"
"Because I thought it was amazing. I wanted to take my camera out and take a picture of it," said Gabe.
Which is just what he did, Gabe snapped dozens, if not hundreds, of pictures of the butterfly and shared them with friends like Kelly Kortsch.
"You saw it with your own eyes?" I asked Kelly, not used to interrogating people for a feature television story.
"Yes, yes. It was on his shoulder when I saw him," said Kortsch.
I conducted the interview at Fast Times in Clairemont. The owner of the bar and restaurant, Shawn Lee, said he too saw the beautiful bar butterfly.
"Gabe came into the bar and he had a butterfly on his nose and he hung out for over an hour talking to people having some drinks and there it was the whole time," said Lee.
Gabe bought milkweed to raise caterpillars which he brought to Fast Times to show me as evidence to support the story. He said he now encourages butterflies to live on his face and even drink his saliva. He had video of this too.
"It was quite shocking. I just felt her doing something to my mouth and I ran into the bathroom and looked in the mirror and she was just drinking so I started recording it," said Valdez.
I showed the images to a San Diego County Entomologist by the name of Chris Conlan. Chris is a bug guy who I trust. I take all of my bug stories to him. Chris looked at the footage and said, "The first thing I notice is these butterflies are young and immaculate. That tells me they were raised by this man and not wild butterflies."
I asked Conlan if he thought the butterflies were feeding on Gabe's face.
"If he is sweating, or if there is something on his face or something that that butterfly is detecting that that butterfly needs on its menu it's certainly possible," said Conlan.
In my mind, to make this story fly, I needed one more eye witness like Erick Whitlock.
"It was amazing to me. It just shocked me," said Whitlock.
Gabe showed me another video of a butterfly hanging out on Whitlock's shoulder. I drove across town to meet Whitlock and hear the story.
"Why do you think butterflies choose him?" I asked.
"He is just a good dude, you know some of us have it and some of us don't," said Whitlock with a big laugh.
Gabe has sent me so many videos and pictures of the butterflies that I just had to share this story with News 8 followers. There is another video of the butterfly on Gabe's face as he shaves.
"She is on my face as soon as I wake up and even when I am shaving," Gabe said in the video. "Pretty incredible."
Gabe's phone is filled with Monarch memories. He said he put the butterfly on the faces of others and they would ask "Is that thing real?" or say "There is no way that thing is real."
"I would say, 'yeah it's real' and I would put it on their face," said Gabe. "So I have a collection of pictures with people I shared the experience with around San Diego and I put it on their face and they would light up like a little kid, you know? A lot of people said 'that's not real' so I would touch it and it would open up kind of fly around my face."
I never saw the insects with my own eyes, so this story will always be somewhat of a Monarch mystery, but to see so much joy on the faces of others I am now a butterfly believer.
"I started noticing that when I put the butterfly on people they would start to laugh and they would smile and they would just light up with light you know and just be so happy. So I started documenting how this butterfly brought so much happiness to everyone it touched." said Valdez.