By: Danielle Woodruffe
Spectators of residents and staff make their way in and out of the Solarium at Parker at Stonegate. Each day they monitor the progress of something that has them all a ‘flutter’: butterflies – Monarchs to be exact.
“We’re raising them from larvae to butterfly and all the stages in-between,” says Lee Shahay, Parker Horticultural Specialist.
Shahay, along with Parker residents and Adult Day participants, have nurtured these fluttering beauties with everything they need to survive. Their eggs are housed on milkweed, they are supplied with fresh food daily, and their cages are changed regularly. It takes a lot of work and many cleanings to make sure their environments stay sanitized and that the butterflies survive their metamorphosis.
Yet for many of these insects, they’re getting a better chance at survival than nature would normally allow. New Jersey’s construction boom around Parker’s River Road campus, has altered the habitats for the Monarchs.
“I felt strongly that it was our obligation to try to encourage the Monarchs to come to our garden,” explains Shahay.
Many don’t realize that Monarchs are becoming fewer and fewer. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports their existence has declined by more than 80 percent over the last two decades.
Parker is in the process of registering all its gardens with the Monarch Watch. The first official registered Monarch Garden at Parker, Flight of Fancy, sits outside of Parker at Stonegate Assisted Living Residence in Highland Park, NJ.
Parker has also tagged 23 of the Monarchs raised with registration numbers given by the Monarch Watch. The purpose of this is to generate migration data and monitor overall Monarch numbers.
“We’ve made a commitment to the Monarch population and the Monarch Watch that we are going to be advocates for the butterfly population,“ says Shahay.
That commitment paid off as Parker just released seven Monarchs to the wild this week.
Roberto Muñiz, Parker CEO, joined Adult Day participants to bid them farewell.
“This project is closely aligned with Parker’s goal of creating purpose and spontaneity in the lives of our participants and residents and allowing them to interact with animals and plants – and in this case butterflies,” explains Muñiz. “We have made a difference and hopefully saved some Monarchs, and the experience has also positively impacted many who have chosen to age with us.”
The butterflies have the potential to fly as far as Mexico to mate and back again.
So far this year Parker has released 75 Monarchs and 25 Swallowtails (which are the official butterfly of New Jersey) to the wild.
By: Danielle Woodruffe