By Debra Downey, Senior Editor
Seventy Monarch butterflies are fluttering this summer thanks to the tender, loving care of the Melanson family.
Led by growing captains Calvin, 10, and Sean, 8, the Melansons’ backyard has become a haven for Monarch eggs, caterpillars, chrysalis and young butterflies.
Dad Devin does the garden work and mom Sunila helps raise the butterflies. The boys lend a hand doing whatever is needed, whenever it’s required.
The family launched their Monarch butterfly growing operation two years ago.
“We got interested by reading a book about raising Monarch butterflies, and it seemed pretty cool, so we gave it a shot,” said Calvin.
Since then the family’s yard has been transformed into a Monarch-friendly breeding area. The boys check daily — usually more than once — to see if an enterprising female has laid eggs on one of about 40 milkweed plants, Once a miniscule egg is spotted, the leaf is carefully cut and put in a container with a damp paper towel. When the egg becomes a caterpillar, it is transported into a wood and mesh cage carefully constructed by Devin. The caterpillar then forms a chrysalis. When it hatches, the young butterfly is moved into a tent before being released.
At first raising the Monarch butterflies was only a hobby for the enterprising Ancaster family. However, in June of last year, the boys learned the Monarch population had decreased by 53 per cent, so the pair want to do even more to save the butterfly and raise awareness among others. The family often welcomes others into their yard and the boys encourage fellow students at C.H. Bray to start raising their own Monarch butterflies.
Calvin even made a YouTube video entitled, How to Raise Monarch Butterflies, An Instructional Video by Calvin. It features 17 simple steps to successfully grow Monarch butterflies.
“I’m aiming to turn around the endangering of the Monarch butterfly and you can too. Here’s how,” Calvin tells his viewers.
Both boys’ interest has been piqued by the family project and Sean, at least, sees himself eventually pursuing a career involved with wildlife.
“It might not necessarily be Monarchs, because it’s not the only kind of animal I like,” he said.
Monarch butterfly facts already roll easily from Sean’s lips, and those of his brother and parents. For example, Male and female monarchs are distinguishable by of a black dot on their wing. The caterpillars like their milkweed moist. The first thing the caterpillar does after hatching is eat its egg shell. About one day before the Monarch emerges, the chrysalis turns clear. In the fall, the Monarchs’ flight pattern takes them to Point Pelee in Ontario and eventually Mexico. In the wild about two percent of the eggs survive due to natural predators, so growing Monarchs in a semi-captive environment really increases their chances of survival.