I’m sitting here in my garden (my office) in the shade with heaps of Monarchs fluttering around me, wanting to be seen, and it makes me feel so blessed and happy. I regularly get asked why I do what I do and what started me off on this journey raising awareness and caring for Monarch butterflies.
Why?? There are just too many positives not to do what I do. I get to teach at my children’s kindy, pre-school, and school. In front of all my teacher friends, I get to teach at their schools, or at my friends’ children’s school. I love seeing familiar faces at all my talks and meeting new people.
I really feel like I’m doing my part for the environment raising awareness for the butterflies in nature. There’s a huge knock-on effect and introduces children to biodiversity. I’m still learning about flowers, raising Monarchs and so many other things in nature; it’s great! I love being part of the community, and enjoy doing my interactive talks – they work around school term, so I can be on holiday with my children.
I now speak to adults at garden clubs and get to teach the older generation when I’m releasing Monarchs at retirement homes. Another plus is I get to dress up and become the butterfly lady (all those fancy dress parties make it easy now for me). I get heaps of hugs from the cutest kids after my talks when they thank me, which is so sweet and unexpected.
(photo of me and my daughter Lola at a preschool)
Monarch butterflies are such a conversation starter as many people reminisce about their childhood and how they used to have big swan plants, or their nan used to love Monarchs. Raising Monarchs holds special memories for a lot of people I talk to. I find it hard to shut up with all my stories and exchanging of advice LOL.
My job is easy. It’s not forced. It all comes naturally and everything just flows, special people cross my path, and it becomes even easier as I’m getting the help behind the scenes now with ideas and my website which I’m truly thankful for.
My family has stepped up, helping check over 200 swan plants for eggs each day. My husband added more irrigation this year and netting for my seedlings to grow to stop the monarchs laying eggs too early, he’s even suggested another greenhouse for next year.
I love the way everything is in sync where Monarchs will come out of their chrysalis 5 minutes after I finished teaching… this doesn’t always happen, but it has lately when I’ve had an abundance of chrysalises that I bring along to my talks. I drive up to my driveway and the majority of the time I’m greeted by a Monarch flying past my car window.
I love the way I go into pre-schools and the teachers are just as passionate about the life cycle of a Monarch as me, and they have their ipads lined up in front of a chrysalis that’s just about to emerge on slow mode, which makes me chuckle. Likewise, I love the fact that I have great partners like Mitre10 Papanui and Yates NZ helping me when I need them, which I’m truly grateful for.
I see Felix, my 2-year-old, really enjoying stepping up and learning about what I do, and helping me. He came to many swan planting sessions last year and a few talks, so he’s absorbing it all, chatting away about the life cycle. It becomes part of their life, witnessing a caterpillar making a chrysalis and knowing that it will turn into a butterfly. Children are naturally gentle with the plants and creatures and want to be part of the experience. Felix cried today when we had one which didn’t fly, and I had to explain what happened. He then took a few newly enclosed Monarchs to kindy proudly on a plant so that his friends could witness it up and close and release it later on in the day.
This summer I’ve felt overwhelmed at times (especially in January which is peak Monarch season) and I was reading that there’s a shortage of swan plants, which stressed me out. I also had the most ever caterpillars at any one time to raise and care for. As the Monarchs got one over on me and laid so many eggs on my nets whilst I was on holiday. I just really wasn’t expecting 400 caterpillars, and I’m still finding more and more each day even though we are doing our best to remove eggs and have the swan plants hidden. I was nearly at my limit juggling 3 children in the hot heat, during the school holidays, thankfully most of the time they helped me with the caterpillars and plants.
When I hear my daughter say “I don’t need to go to university, I’m just going to teach children about Monarchs” makes me smile. Or I hear them scream with excitement when they have found another chrysalis or one that’s just about to eclose. When I hear them say “Mummy, I love holding Monarchs they are just so beautiful”, I know it’s all worth it.
I first started raising Monarchs alongside my children in 2010, and it helped me connect and bond with them; it was our little project and passion which has grown. It was our special time in nature watching the magic unfold. I love the colour orange and the Monarchs’ beauty, and maybe that’s what’s drawn me to them. I get to work in the great outdoors whilst being surrounded by all the happy bees buzzing and the birds singing. Everywhere I look there are beautiful flowers and all my vegetables and herbs growing around me.
Monarch butterflies bring children to hope that something can change within nature and in our personal lives too. The Monarchs are around to teach us many things, science, gardening, magic, and caring for Mother Earth, to name a few. It’s the wonderment I see in children’s eyes and people telling me they’re still fascinated about the life cycle after so many years of raising Monarchs that keeps me doing what I do.
Thanks to everyone in my community, and friends for having my back for all the lovely private messages and photos you send me of your Monarchs and butterfly areas. It makes me feel like it’s all worth it. I now see the light and exciting times are coming each day – I have many eclosing out of their chrysalis and rocking into my talks in Term 1. I aim to share all my experiences and help as many people, teachers, and children, so they too can raise caterpillars the right way and have plenty of swan plants in their classrooms each year.
Furthermore, I know I inspire others, children go home and teach their parents about what they have learned from my talks and the parents contact me and start raising monarchs in their garden with help from their children. I love the ripple effect, so keep on doing what you’re doing everyone – it’s great, you’re all making a difference!