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A helping hand

Sandy Bush released 36 butterflies last year after transporting milkweed from her front yard in order to take care of butterfly eggs and caterpillars. (Submitted photo)

COLUMBIANA – Sandy Bush has always been a fan of butterflies. She’s always been drawn to the change and evolution of the insect, as it serves as a symbol of self-growth. So, when she had learned about the declining numbers of butterflies, she wanted to play a part in preserving them.

Bush began the process last July when she found that online monarch butterfly watches were getting canceled because many butterfly habitats were being cut down for construction. She then decided to bring in butterfly eggs and caterpillars from the milkweed in her yard. Little did she know, the decision turned into a more time-consuming process than she thought.

“I’ve always had a fascination with them, but I never thought I’d have all of these bugs,” Bush said. “You wouldn’t believe how much work it is. It takes about four hours each day just to clean their area. Instead of having my nose in the TV, I spend my time taking care of them.”

Despite the hard work, Bush said she feels good about doing the right thing by preserving the butterflies. While a butterfly lays about 400 eggs, only one out of every 100 live to become butterflies. Last year, Bush released 36 butterflies. So far this year, Bush has almost three dozen chrysalises and that number continues to grow daily.

“Not to say that another predator wouldn’t get it, but I feel like I’ve made a contribution to release as many butterflies as I have,” Bush said. “They really have a lot of enemies and obstacles to live.”

In the area, roadsides with milkweed are trimmed for maintenance and pesticides are used to take care of yards. Milkweed is poisonous, so while butterflies are vulnerable in their chrysalis, the poisonous plant can protect them from some predators. However, the milkweed only affects vertebrae animals, not other bugs.

After finding out about the decline of the butterflies, she asked the road crew not to cut the milkweed and decided to bring the plant inside. Unfortunately for Bush, the job isn’t only hard work, but it can get quite messy. Every day, she has to clean frass (defecation) out of the habitats or else the caterpillars can get diseased.

Bush also enjoys showing her grandchildren the caterpillars and chrysalises. One of her granddaughters is going into second grade, and Bush said she already has a head start, learning about the evolution of a butterfly. The insects also teach a lesson about life.

“For me, they represent how we can live our lives,” Bush said. “No matter what you do in the first part of your life, you always have that chance to turn into a beautiful creature.”

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