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An Educational Guide on Monarch Butterflies

This guide is an excellent resource for teachers working in pre-schools or primary schools, who want to learn more to teach their students or raise monarch caterpillars as a hobby in your own back garden; or perhaps you’re that person, like me, who treats their caterpillars as pets, and rushes out for emergency dashes to the garden centre if you’ve run out of swan plants.

Keep on reading>>

Christchurch Civic Award recipient for services to environmental education

Tena koutou, I am honoured & humbled to be a recipient of the beautiful Civic Award for services to Environment & Education, for the work that I do on behalf of the Monarch Butterflies here in New Zealand. The Christchurch Civic Award is a pretty major recognition to receive, past winners are people that have given over 30 years back into their community. I feel so stoked to get even nominated for the Environment Education sector alongside so many deserving hard-working people in my community.

There are so many reasons why I do this work. I feel this is one of my callings and I love that I get to inspire and teach so many people. I love teaching adults and children and my monarch family via social media, in person at garden clubs & schools around the country. Being in nature is healing and time just disappears when you are surrounded by it in your own back garden. Raising monarch butterflies is just so rewarding, you get to be part of this magical transformation within nature, you end up sharing your caterpillars and your stories with your friends and family that come round, this soon becomes the butterfly effect and your friends see how happy you are, and they end up purchasing a plant and raising monarchs too. Monarch butterflies are a doorway to nature and so many other in biosystems here on earth. Mother Earth has been over-extracted and her resources have been taken for granted, it’s time that everyone becomes conscious about their environment and helps by giving back, we must care by doing any little thing that can help return the planet back to health.

Raising awareness is important for these magical creatures that are in decline. Especially in other countries where illegal logging is taking place and Monarchs are losing their habitats, plus the overuse of pesticides that kill our insects. If we want them to be part of our World for years to come, we need to act as a collective. As I’m writing this blog it gives me so much joy to look out of my window and see bright orange Monarchs flutter and chase each other in my garden, this brings me instant joy.

I received my award last December 2020 and got to celebrate and be recognized for my hard work over the last 7 years. I feel this is the only beginning for me, there’s so much potential & opportunities out there. Furthermore, I will keep on transforming and saying yes to new opportunities. Yes, I get crazy ideas like planting 10,000 swan plants in a space of 6 weeks with 130 schools. As I was fed up with teachers and monarch lovers spending heaps on plants, without even thinking how the logistics will work and minimal planning and I look back in retrospect, and they far many swan plants around now than when I started years ago no more searching for plants during peak season.

The seed has been down so to speak!! As so many people have come on board and sow from seed, that we now have an abundance of monarchs in our environment. There’s still so much education and awareness to be shared with the use of pesticides, and predators. The best thing is the life cycle teaches us to be present and that we are part of nature, and we need to restore the plant that has been ripped apart from greed. It’s time to give back and care for all the insects and plants nectar flowers for the bees and butterflies. I feel so blessed to each and another one of you that has helped me on my path, who help me get into schools, inspire me, and you’re touching personal messages. You are my Monarch, whanua!

Here are the other award recipients you can read all about them in the link you will be so inspired by these wonderful people.

https://www.odt.co.nz/star-news/star-christchurch/christchurch-groups-and-residents-receive-awards-special-ceremony?fbclid=IwAR2wGnL2JfagU867e_Epqv_sk2JwzJs41QEDRrQL_XRT9wZ914ac_OKjy50

Transformational Talks

Have you ever wondered why so many adults have a deep affection for the Monarch butterfly and how they connect to us on a deeper level within our own lives?

I speak & teach at schools & events, I just love being given the opportunity to talk on a range of topics regarding transformation and the magical life cycle of a butterfly, the importance of pollinators, and how we can all help nature individually and grow as individuals.

I had my own metamorphosis in life and know first hand & experienced struggles, I have had to shed layers and release old beliefs, and transformed into my new powerful self spreading light and knowledge to everyone that I speak to at schools with my interactive monarch butterfly talks, speaking at festivals and wellness events and butterfly workshops.

The challenges the caterpillar has to go through to become a beautiful butterfly. Having to surrender to the moment and have that faith that something better is coming to him/her. The caterpillar is unhappy within his own skin, so he continually sheds his old skins making room for new skin and growth to occur… sound familiar? It’s all a reflection – this magical life cycle shows us how we can all go through an amazing transformation too. By watching with curiosity my life started to sync in many places and I too went through a personal transformation….as I was the Mother Hen of the house, pleasing my friends and having so many things to do each day… I don’t think I had a chance to sit back and see who the real me was. It was a blessing that all the things I did evolved being in nature, dog walking, parks, playgrounds, beaches. This life was perfect for that time with two toddlers and my need to be around people as I’ve always been a busy social butterfly. Now I’m true to my purpose doing what I love, leading a simple life with my now 3 children within nature. I am so grateful for the simple things of life and choosing not to be busy and living a much more calm, slower & joyous life.

Monarch butterflies are our spirit messenger from the other side, here to show us how to change, take this lightly, live life at the moment, and perhaps showing you that it’s time to look at life from a new perspective.

Monarchs are purposeful for an empowered and inspiring life. Having done all the hard work in a previous life as a caterpillar. Spiritual transformation, like the physical metamorphosis of the butterfly, is a very difficult and often painful process. However, transformation requires growth and change, and so for our growth, we must embrace what is actually holding back from becoming our highest version of ourselves.

People too can grow like a seed, by nurturing the seed within them. By loving that seed that burning inside and waiting to grow.  Learning to leave all those self-beliefs and self-doubts that hold the seed down, that are no longer true deep in the soil below. Which in fact stops us from feeling joy and personal growth take place.

In many cultures around the world, butterflies symbolize regeneration, transformation, hope, and beauty. Whilst watching the life cycle of a monarch butterfly helps us transform too and teaches us about things on so many levels and creates wonderment and fascination, simple pleasures that nature offers us. 

Do what you love, everyone can find the opportunity to change and transform, find your joy, and this joy ripples throughout your family and friends, just by being your authentic real self. It can take a few years of letting go of things, to become the person you want to be. It’s totally worth all the hard work, shedding everything that no longer serves you and finding that seed/love inside that’s waiting to burst out. Furthermore, it’s your purpose on this earth, you owe it to yourself to grow, shine. Stand tall in all your beauty and knowledge so that you can share for others to grow with you.

If Anyone asked me even a couple of years ago I would be a Butterfly Goddess I would have not believed them, my seed had got stuck slightly.

Let me know if you want me to speak at your event, personal development workshops, training days.

Find your seed and do what you love!! Maria Monarch X

Butterfly Garden Make Over

This November until February 2021 I will be in my own chrysalis, I had decided to take a massive step back from school talks as the last 4 summers I’ve spoken to over 10,000 people around the country and I realized I really love spending time in nature and my own garden. This spring my whole family has been busy transforming our garden ready for the butterflies to enjoy and for us to grow a variety of vegetables, salads, and herbs to eat this summer.

We moved into a lovely new house post lockdown, right near a large lake, which is home to a variety of birds & wildlife it is very tranquil & beautiful. I love walking most days with my dog around the reserve, the only downside was our back garden had nothing for the bees butterflies, and NO colour.

I love transformation, we had a blank canvas to work with. In the last 8 weeks, we have made progress & started eating from our veggie boxes, my glasshouse is home to over 270 swan plants of various stages, with plenty of veggies/flower seedlings. We have unloaded so many trailers loads of soil to fill our 3 new veggies boxes, my 12-year-old son Lucas assembled the glasshouse and my husband inserted the glass, Lola has been chief seed sower and 5-year-old Felix drilled the holes into the veggie boxes. Felix & Lola have been planting without me knowing some days before 8 am in their school uniform, loving the little garden seeds that they totally got into. They didn’t do all the work, I did so too. Re-potting of seedlings can take days and days to complete!

This is one of the major reasons I have taken a step back with school talks to focus on growing my own children and garden. I will be back in full swing in February 2021!! This means I will only be talking at garden clubs in the evening, and continuing speaking at locals schools that have booked me already.

This year I have promised my family our glasshouse will not be overtaken with swan plants like previous years, and we go back to planting salad items and veggies. It’s been great, Lucas enjoyed assembling the glasshouse which took 2 days – he said “it was like a Lego instructions book, it was fun”. We will be looking forward to all the beneficial insects arriving this summer, and already the bees are here at 7 am (when the sun is actually out….come one summer where are you) most mornings on my borage and poppy plants which they love, that had self-seeded in my pots from last year.

It’s all worth the hard work, soon I will get to sit in my chair admiring all the flowers in bloom and harvesting our crops, I just love watching everything around me growing throughout the seasons. Nature is pretty special and one of the best places to be in, relaxing with a glass of wine or a cup of tea. The glasshouse layout is next year’s focus as I have just put tables in at the moment for seed trays and at the back end we have dug in our own compost into the soil, then planted our orka’s tomatoes, cucumbers, and chilli plants into. Any ideas or advice for my garden I’m happy to hear from you.

In the last couple of years, we have grown fewer and fewer veggies and herbs as swan plants have taken over my life in a good way, but this takes heaps of time nurturing the plants and caterpillars. It’s great to have a balance and grow a variety of different plants flowers and herbs. I love propagating indoor and outdoor plants, whilst checking their roots daily to see how much they have grown…does anyone else do this, or am I just a plant geek too? I have also got a large garden around the front that I have many succulents in and flowers which I have always loved growing over the years and gifting them to friends. It’s pretty rare for someone to leaves my house without an indoor plant cutting, milkweed plant, or a succulent to plant in their own home.

The family has loved helping and working together, it’s been a great project and Lola has just put the finishing touches in and added the irrigation pipes, that something I don’t know where to start to begin, as that’s my husband’s department. Even though irrigation is now in I will still enjoy watering as I find it relaxing, and have fun when my dog tries to drink the from the hose and get gets in my way playing.

It’s so rewarding how far we have come in 8 weeks when we all chipped in as a family.

Over the past few years, we have trying to go as organic as possible, this means having our own worm farm that we can feed our veggies with, making our own compost, and not using any pesticides or herbicides. To keep the slugs at bay, we sprinkle eggs shells around the little seedlings as slugs will not walk on them. As extra security and boost of warmth we also cut up milk bottles and these act as mini glasshouses, we have always found this method great in giving our seedlings the best possible start in life. Occasionally we find snails that also like eating seedlings, but I always find them new homes in my neighbour’s gardens.

If you would like to know more about creating a beautiful butterfly and bee garden, my excellent full-color A4 resource book on everything you need to know about the wonderful life cycle is available below.

An Educational Guide on Monarch Butterflies

My glasshouse can be purchased from amazing friendly service and great instructions that even a 12 year can put together, or you can get a local person to come in and assemble. The glasshouse in the pictures above is a Statesman 2.57×3.8 meters.

https://redpath.co.nz/home-and-garden/aluminium-glasshouses/

Rāwhiti Domain Nature playground butterfly park

The Butterfly Musketeers are ecstatic to announce that Guardians of Rāwhiti Domain, New Brighton has received the green light this week under a $580,000 grant from the government’s Shovel Ready Projects. The money will be for a nature playground and butterfly park. The Butterfly Musketeers has been a spokesperson on behalf of the Monarchs for the last 3 years with the Guardians of Rāwhiti Domain chairperson Cathy Baker (an amazing visionary lady) who has been working since 2015 to create an inspiring project for a 1.7-hectare section of Rāwhiti Domain on the east side of Christchurch. Designated in the Rāwhiti Domain Management Plan of 2007 as a natural play area for children, the area incorporates a 100-year-old monarch butterfly habitat. Plans include a native bird habitat nourished by nectar gardens. Massive thanks to Cathy Baker and her wonderful team who pushed for this amazing project. It’s going to be an epic place for children, adults, and our local wildlife. BIG thanks to the incredible support from Eastern Community Sport and Recreation Inc & Poto Williams (Labour MP for Christchurch East).

My daughter Lola & Jacinda Arden

A couple of weeks later our great Prime Minister Jacinda Arden came down to Rawhiti Domain to visit the all-weather outdoor sports facility which is right next door to where the Butterfly Park will be.

The Butterfly Musketeers were invited to listen to our brilliant, compassionate Prime Minister Jacinda. The ECSR had received the money to start one of the many shovel-ready projects in the area. Jacinda was so happy to talk about the monarch butterfly park & nature playground. That she told us she can’t wait to visit when it’s open. As the other local MP’s were speaking I could just see her smiling at the kids with monarch wings….we did stand out at the front wearing bright orange. Jacinda was stoked to get a signed copy of my book for her daughter, Neve, so they can learn about the monarchs together. That’s when Jacinda finally has time to rest. In the meantime, we will be having heaps of fun growing native trees for the birds and hundreds of swan plants from seed for the area.

My daughter Lola and Gabriella
Image Supplied and Design by Geraint Howells BAHons DipLA
 Creative Intentions Ltd

Watch this space for more news, on how you can get involved with community planting days and activities.

Save our pollinators

Why is it important to have pollinators in our environment?

Pollinators are vital to creating and maintaining the habitats and ecosystems that many animals rely on for food and shelter. Worldwide, over half the diet of fats and oils comes from crops pollinated by animals. They facilitate the reproduction of 90% of the world’s flowering plants.

POLLINATORS ARE IN CRITICAL DECLINE AND NEED YOUR HELP.

In my garden, we take insects seriously and make sure they have a good home, with plenty of flowers to feed on, and we don’t spray any pesticides of any kind. I believe every insect in our ecosystem has an important job to play and when some start to disappear from our environment this can have a huge impact.

Why is there less pollinators in our world today?

A decline in pollinators can be attributed to the use of pesticides, diseases, habitat destruction, air pollution, and even climate change (temperatures rise and insects cannot tolerate the heat and have to move elsewhere or die). Longer summers, less rainfall affects them too.  All these factors, as well as massive human population growth, are causing natural habitats to be cleared to make way for new houses, or more farming, leaving animals and insects to look for new areas to survive. *The iconic monarch butterfly has declined by over 90 percent in just twenty years.

Who are our Pollinators?

  • Honey Bees
  • Native Bees
  • Bumblebees
  • Monarch Butterflies
  • Birds (Especially Hummingbirds)
  • Flies
  • Wasps

Pollinators visit flowers to drink nectar or feed off pollen and transport pollen grains as they move from spot to spot. If we had no pollinators in our world, we wouldn’t have half the amount of fruit or vegetables that you see in our supermarkets.

Butterfly Fruit Platter containing fruits that need our pollinators.

What can you do to help?

It starts with you… educate your friends and family. Speak to your local governments, national governments, get informed about what is being sprayed in your local area. The following points below are a great way to start to care for the pollinators in your own back garden.

1. Water Table. Add a water table for the birds and insects to drink from.

2. Become a wildlife gardener. Let your daisies and dandelions grow, including your grass verge for an extra few weeks the bees will love you for it. Sometimes this may be the only food source for a kilometre or so. If you have space, create a wild garden and let some of your vegetables and flowers go to seed. These flowers attract heaps of bees, and you can keep some seeds for next year as well as sharing them with the birds. Last summer I noticed hundreds arrive as soon as the sun came up in the morning, I had two large areas where I had let spring onions, poppies, and Nasturtium goes to flower. It was an enjoyable sight watching the bees pop in and out of every flower.

3. Colour up your garden. Plant an array of nectar flowers, some of which flower during winter months when the food source is more scarce. Choose simple flowers that have easily accessible pollen. Mix it up with native and exotic plants. Many native bees, flies, and butterflies are more attracted to native flowers such as Manuka, Hebe, and Pohutukawa.

4. Plant Milkweed/Swan Plants. The swan plant is the host plant to the caterpillar. Without Swan plants, Monarch butterflies cannot lay their eggs, and caterpillars starve. During early spring, plant as many as you can… sprinkle the seeds in a tray, and transplant once the seedlings are established. You will be pleased you planted so many and will have enough food for your hungry caterpillars over the peak summer months. Also plant swan plants at your local community gardens, businesses, or schools. Wouldn’t it be amazing if every school had its own pollinator garden?

An old Spring onion that I left in the soil so it could go to flower. Bees love them!

5. Avoid harmful fertilizers and pesticides. Even though some say they are insect-friendly, double-check the label. Using any pesticides changes the natural balance of your soil.

6 Plant natives. Go to your local garden centre and ask what types are plants are native to your area. Go have a look in your neighbours’ gardens for ideas, or see what plants are around in your local parks.

7. Shop at your local farmers’ market. There are more farmers’ markets than ever before around, here you can purchase organic fresh fruit and vegetables, whilst supporting your local community by buying locally.

8. Spread the Word on Social Media. You can help this call to action by spreading the message about the plight of bees, monarch butterflies, and other declining pollinators on social media. Take a minute to share my link, on your other social media networks.

9. Order a honey hive for your property, if you have room. Contact a local bee keeper and you can have the hive on your property as well as a few jars of honey each year. If you’re in NZ you can hire a beehive, that way you can relax knowing your flowers and fruit trees will be pollinated. Find out more http://kiwibees.co.nz/ or Google to find a local company in your area.

10. Volunteer in your local area. There are many local reserves in your area that need your help planting trees, or native plants.

11. Make a house for the insects to lay their eggs in and rest. My daughter made me a ladybird house for Christmas and I love it. It’s for the ladybugs.

Insect House made of bamboo sticks.

Want to know more about taking care of vital pollinators and would like to purchase my book that has all you need to know about creating a beautiful butterfly garden and raising healthy monarch butterflies, go purchase my excellent resource book.

A Guide On Monarch Butterflies

There are many groups in NZ that need volunteers heres the links below.

https://millionmetres.org.nz/

https://conservationvolunteers.co.nz/

* Source: Center for Biological Diversity

MAGIC HAPPENS

I don’t know everything about Monarch butterflies far from it, nor do I pretend I do, although each day I continue to learn through my teachings, experience, & from people that share their stories first hand with me. We are here to grow and learn together.  I don’t think anyone really wants to listen to an expert unless you at a university lecture studying for a degree. It’s far greater to learn whilst having fun and being interactive.

Read More

Can Oamaru become Monarch Capital of New Zealand?

After 6 months of taking a winter break from school talks my first 24hrs back at work, I spoke to over 400 children and adults within 7 sessions! What a buzz meeting so many cool people that are collectively boosting the monarch population as a community. Last night’s talk was everything I could have wished for, sharing information on Monarch butterflies, swan plants, and how we can create beautiful butterfly gardens and care for our hungry caterpillars.

Read More

Be curious…… be YOU

Butterfly Transformation

It started with curiosity watching the life cycle of a Monarch butterfly with my young pre schoolers, the spark inside me ignited and my passion grew organically. I enjoyed taking photos of nature, whilst fully in the moment. I loved all the colourful flowers in my garden, also wildlife which were easy to capture on camera. I then shared my information along with the photos. This quickly grew into my amazing book and interactive school talks around New Zealand, its been an amazing journey, but feel this is only just beginning.

One of the best parts of my job is that I get to be creative and hands-on in nature in my garden. I love receiving downloads of creativity and inspiration then rolling with it. It’s not every day you can call on a friend to cover you in orange body paint and monarch butterflies clips and have a fun photoshoot.

I feel blessed to be able to work in sync with the seasons resting in winter whilst gaining growth and wisdom to share in the spring, summer months with others. With each year I gain more confidence and flare.

Read More

How Raising Monarch Butterflies promotes healthy Well-being

How many of you would love to go on a retreat each year that promotes well-being, inner peace, and gain new knowledge? Well, how about creating a beautiful garden with bright colourful flowers, and of course, you have plenty of Swan Plants for the caterpillars… that would do as much to your positive well-being as going on a retreat.

When you’re outside relaxing in your garden within nature, your breathing slows down and your blood pressure begins to lower. You become relaxed. Which in turn breaks down stress and tensions within the body. Stress is a major factor that leads to common illnesses and inflammation within the body. Read More