Ambrea Chambers cries every time her children leave home — all 80 of them.
The Waterford woman raised seven dozen monarch butterflies this summer, collecting their tiny eggs from rural roadways and then watching in wonderment as the endangered pollinators spread their bright orange wings for the first time inside her kitchen.
“To see a butterfly emerge from the chrysalis is pretty amazing,” Chambers said. “They are truly magical.”
Chambers started rearing butterflies after moving home to Waterford from Vancouver three years ago.
“I lost a friend just before I got home, and his family loves monarchs because they think of him when they see them,” she said.
That first summer, she found five caterpillars and raised them inside a small box.
Last year she bought two enclosures, each about two square feet, and ushered 19 butterflies into the world.
“Because they’re endangered, every little bit helps,” Chambers said. “About 95 per cent of them die before they even get to the butterfly stage.”
Butterfly eggs can be infected by pesticides or become a meal for flies and ants. Those that make it to the larva or pupa stage are just big enough for birds to snack on.
Raising butterflies is easy and affordable, Chambers said, with the only expense being the enclosures and the time it takes to collect the eggs and supply a steady diet of fresh milkweed.
Chambers logs and names each butterfly as it’s born.
“I figured it would be more fun to let them fly away with a name,” she said.
She went through the alphabet three times this summer, naming one male butterfly after her departed friend, Mike.
Stuck on a female name starting with Q, she came up with “Qtee.”
Chambers has also turned her rural property into a way station for migrating monarchs to rest and snack on nectar from the goldenrod and milkweed she planted.
“Last night I had over two dozen in my yard,” she said on Friday. “It’s pretty cool to see.”
Chambers said she sheds a tear as each of her butterflies takes flight, either to breed for a few weeks in Norfolk or, later in the season, embark on a weeks-long migration to Mexico.
The grandchildren of those delicate-winged aviators come back in the spring to lay more eggs for her to collect.
“The whole process is just magic,” she said.
By J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Sep 19, 2023 at 07:34