Monarch Expert Brings Butterflies to The Birches

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The residents of The Birches Assisted Living in Clarendon Hills have seen and experienced a lot in their long lives. But despite eight or more decades of life experience, until recently, many had never gotten up close and personal with one of the most amazing creatures of North America—the monarch butterfly.

On August 14, Patricia Miller, a conservation specialist for the nonprofit Monarch Watch, visited The Birches to talk about monarchs and give residents the opportunity to interact with these fascinating insects first-hand.

Due to their beauty and impressive stamina, monarch butterflies are among North America’s most recognizable and revered insects; some monarchs migrate up to 3,000 miles per year, traveling an average of 50 to 100 miles a day. But according to Miller, despite their popular appeal, most people know very little about the monarch.

“It’s not something people know about in great detail, but everyone is always very interested in learning more,” said Miller. “I think that’s because people like to look at beautiful things, and also because it’s fun to learn about something different.”

In her presentation, Miller taught residents about the biology, development and migration of the monarch. Miller also brought a caterpillar egg and caterpillars in various stages of development for residents to examine with a magnifying glass.

“When it reaches its full size, a caterpillar is 3,000 times bigger than it was when it started out,” said Miller. “It’s absolutely amazing how much it grows.”

Residents also had the opportunity to examine a chrysalis, pet a butterfly and watch Miller release a butterfly outside of The Birches. In addition, Miller answered everyone’s questions, satiating their curiosity about the mysterious monarch.

“People had a lot of questions about their life cycle, their diet and their migration to Mexico. Staff members were also interested in finding out which plants attract butterflies so they could see more monarchs in the future,” said Miller.