Bond between mother, daughter blooms through butterflies

Image of Shawna O'Neill
By Shawna O'Neill
Bond between mother, daughter blooms through butterflies
Katie Andrews releasing one of her many butterflies at Mable's Meadow on Monday, Aug. 26 (Shawna O'Neill/Seaway News photo).

CORNWALL, Ontario – Emma Andrews, who is only 3-years-old, picked a tomato in her garden last summer with a monarch butterfly chrysalis attached to it. Mother Katie Andrews helped her daughter transfer the metamorphosing bug, allowing it to safely emerge and fly away. This summer, the pair have made it their hobby together to help the monarch caterpillars in their transformation.

“My daughter, she loved it — seeing the process. I thought, it would be really neat if we could find a caterpillar and see the whole thing,” said Katie, remembering back to her daughter’s first reaction.

Last fall, the pair ran through their field adjacent to their family’s business, Summer Heights Golf Course, and shook out milkweed pods in hopes of spreading more of the plant.

“I’ve never seen so much milkweed grow so fast,” said Katie, aghast at the sudden biodiversity. “I’ve seen so many other butterflies, bumble bees…grasshoppers in the field.”

Sure enough, the duo found a caterpillar on a milkweed plant just outside of their door at the beginning of the summer. After taking it inside, they quickly realized they needed more of the plant to feed it, and when they went foraging for its dinner, they stumbled upon two more caterpillars, who moved in moments later.

From there, the project grew and transformed much like the butterflies themselves. Katie began researching different structures to keep the insects inside of, soon creating her own makeshift Caterpillar Condo, where she keeps detailed notes about how many creatures take up residence. To date, about 80 caterpillars have been taken inside this summer and about 15 butterflies have been released in what they denote at Mable’s Meadow. Named after original owner of the land Mable Clark, Katie has signified the field between her house and the golf course in her honour.

“It’s this accidental thing that happened on her property,” said Katie with a chuckle. “I know if she was here she would love it that I have my daughter running around in the field with butterflies; it’s just such a joy, so I named it after her.”

Throughout her research on the creatures, Katie soon discovered Monarch Watch, a network of individuals dedicated to the study of Monarch Butterflies. Through the organization, Katie registered Mable’s Meadow as an official Monarch Waystation and obtained butterfly tags. Katie has carefully placed a small tag on almost every butterfly’s delicate wing that has passed through her Caterpillar Condo, in hopes that their number will appear on the organization’s website having reached another point in the world during migration south. Katie has also registered the property a part of Monarchs in the Rough, which promotes butterfly conservation in partnership with golf courses.

“Golf courses have so much land and out of play areas…if you don’t cut them, things like milkweed and wildflower will grow,” said Katie, who explained that many people might not realize that staff take into account biodiversity when maintaining courses.

The project has received a lot of buzz on social media, with people continually inquiring about Katie and Emma’s butterflies, or presenting questions on how to get started with a similar initiative. Katie has spoken to member of the public twice during the month of August, once with the Martintown Horticultural Society and once at Summer Heights, explaining what she has learned, tips and tricks and the beauty of the process.

“I enjoy doing it, my daughter enjoys doing it. We get to go outside together and she’s learning. I find that she is quite gentle and she wants to hold the caterpillars; she loves letting the butterflies go. I think it’s good for her because it’s a different type of patience, learning and handling them with care, respecting them,” said Katie. “It’s still a process of learning and it has turned into a fun little family project.”

Katie shared a recent memory of a butterfly floating up and landing on Emma’s head upon being released, which she had a good laugh at and wanted to see happen again.

“That’s part of why we started doing it. It just makes her so happy — she’s got butterflies,” said Katie.

To learn more about the initiative, visit Mable’s Meadow on Facebook and Instagram.

Share this article