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The Butterfly Farmers

Last week, I overheard a co-worker talking with a friend about the work that she and her husband do with butterflies...I wasn't eavesdropping...okay, I was but only because she had me at "butterfly"!

So, after I basically interupted their conversation and exclaimed how much my daughter LOVES butterflies, the coworker graciously invited us to have a peek at their operation...looking back, I may have invited myself!

When we arrived at the rural property of Wayne and Angela Bulman, just outside of Lakefield, we were welcomed with friendly smiles and a tour of their screened gazebo which houses numerous Monarch butterflies. Wayne explained that there is a drastic decline of this particular butterfly which plays an instrumental role in the pollination of flowers.

The Bulman's are extremely passionate about the preservation of this majestic species and we learned that this unique venture began as a hobby for Wayne's father who clearly passed on his knowledge and enthusiasm to Wayne.

Their operation entails growing milkweed plants which the bred female Monarch will lay her eggs on (she can lay up to 300 eggs).

After about four days, the egg will hatch into a caterpillar which then feeds on the milkweed plant, ingesting the toxic substance that is a crucial defence mechanism (the caterpillar tastes terrible to predators!).

The caterpillar will be fully grown in about two will then find a place to attach itself to, using silk, then transform into a chrysalis.

Wayne will then transfer the chrysalises to mesh "hampers" which are inside his heated shop...

...where they will begin the metamorphosis process...this stage will take up to 10 days...

...then, the beautiful, adult Monarch will emerge.

The butterflies are then released into the wild or shipped (in flat, triangular boxes) to various parts of the country for weddings or bereavement services (also to be released)...all of which will help offset the drastic population decline of the Monarch.

The butterflies then feed on the nectar of flowers, storing fuel for their 3000 mile journey, south to Mexico, when they migrate in the fall.

Wayne and Angela are trying to create an awareness about the harmful effects that chronically used pesticides have on these butterflies and the balance of nature. Only about 5% of the butterflies raised in the wild will survive.

In addition to raising and releasing Monarchs, the Bulman's also breed Painted Lady butterflies for release and sell educational kits to schools across Canada.

When the kits are shipped out, they each contain one Painted Lady caterpillar and it's food. The students will receive the kits, and watch the metamorphosis of the most prolific butterfly in the world before releasing it back into nature.

Wayne and Angela are one of approximately ten butterfly breeders in Canada and are doing their part to protect the population of this extraordinary insect...what could be prettier than a butterfly floating on the breeze in a field of wildflowers?

I'm really glad that I'm an eavesdropper!

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