By Sr. Delphine Vasquez, CHM
I’ve been asked many times when and why I got interested in raising monarch butterflies. It began when I moved to the Congregation of the Humility of Mary’s Humility of Mary Center in 2007. Walking the grounds one day I spotted a milkweed plant and then on closer observation several more. I did some research on the plants, the monarchs that lay their eggs on the leaves, and the caterpillars that transform into monarchs. I decided I would start a nursery.
That particular summer we had a few butterflies to release. The CHM sisters enjoyed seeing them develop so much (one sister said that it was one of the best experiences of her life) that I continued with the project every summer after. Our maintenance person and gardener gave me a couple of spots on our campus to plant milkweed. The plants produced wonderfully well and we hoped they would attract the monarchs.
Like other such projects we could claim a good year or a not-as-good year. For example, last year we raised — with the help of many friends of monarchs–around 100 butterflies. At this writing, we have about 35 which is a bit disappointing. However there is still time for more eggs to appear before the season is over.
I find this project — some call it a ministry — a way to be part of the effort to save our environment: by helping a particular species of pollinators to be nurtured and multiplied. Added to this — how delightful it is to see these iconic monarch butterflies in our yards and gardens! Knowing we are encouraging the health of this group of insects is a very good feeling.
(Visit the CHM YouTube channel to watch one of Sr. Delphine’s insects go from caterpillar to chrysalis. The CHM development director shot it with her phone and she has a jar on her desk to witness the action.)