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Peg Murphy

July 23, 2018

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Bluffton's monarch butterfly nursery

Where Joanne Niswander is nurse practitioner

Mention “Bluffton’s nursery” and the Bluffton Hospital comes to mind.

Another Bluffton nursery exists and it’s very special because it’s for monarch butterflies.This special nursery is at Maple Crest Senior Living Village.

Joanne Niswander is the nurse practitioner. This week the nursery is full of activities. Here’s the story behind the nursery, according to Joanne:

“Our first venture into raising monarch butterflies began in the fall of 2007, when then-MMH administrator, Lynn Thompson, brought a few monarch caterpillars to Maple Crest.

“He and his wife, Liane, were interested in raising monarchs and thought we might be interested in watching the process. I was fascinated. And that was our start.

“My daughter and I put together a poster, explaining in words and photographs, the life cycle of the monarch butterfly. We put the caterpillars in a pie tin, along with fresh milkweed leaves, and placed it on a small table in the family room and watched those caterpillars chew their way through their daily ration.

“We want to the college nature preserve and helped ourselves to more milkweed leaves as needed. That first year, during the first three weeks in September, we birthed four monarchs and released them to travel the long trek to their wintering grounds in Mexico.

“After that first year, many of us at Maple Crest were hook. In 2008 we had a bumper crop of nine monarchs. We raised eight in 2009 and during that same year, I transplanted a few milkweed roots in my raised garden, and those roots have provided leaves for our monarch project ever since.

“We had 10 butterflies in 2010, then only two the next two years. In 2013, we found no eggs on the milkweed leaves, and for that summer, raised a few black swallowtails. Fortunately, in 2014 we were back in business and raised four monarchs.

“Our big year for monarchs was in 2015, when we watched the birth of 20 butterflies – eight males and 12 females.

And then, the following year saw the number dwindle to only four.

Here’s some photos of the class of 2017 monarchs.