Preserving life’s winged pollinators

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Members of the Seaweeders Garden Club of Bay Head and Mantoloking, from left, An Lee, Sharon Shaning, June Pendino and Penny Witt have designed a beautiful butterfly house on the grounds of the Bay Head Recycling Center. The house came to fruition thanks to local resident Peter Doane [in back]. (MARK R. SULLIVAN/THE OCEAN STAR)

Amid the grounds of the Bay Head Recycling Center lies a beautiful new butterfly house designed by several members of the Seaweeders Garden Club of Bay Head and Mantoloking.

The Seaweeders’ butterfly-raising adventure began in 2019 with the purchase of a prefabricated plastic butterfly enclosure that, while serving its purpose, was small and cramped.

“We had an old shed here but it was coming apart, so when we took it down, [member] June Pendino came to ask me, ‘What are you going to do with the piece of property?’ and I hadn’t figured it out yet,so she suggested, ‘Why don’t we put a butterfly house in?’” member Sharon Shaning said.

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Ms. Shaning, Ms. Pendino and fellow Seaweeder An Lee put their heads together to design the new house along with local resident Peter Doane, who constructed the 10-by-12 butterfly house with a cathedral ceiling, custom designed decorative rafters, screens and raised planting beds. Materials were funded by private contributions as well as from funds within the group’s budget.

“We feel that it is something that the area absolutely needs and I love being outside in nature … and it is so magical when you see this little caterpillar turn into this beautiful butterfly. To watch this progression truly encompass nature, it is incredible,” Ms. Shaning said.

According to the group, the focus of the butterfly house is on raising the black swallowtail butterfly, with members taking turns tending the plants, eggs, caterpillars, and then releasing the adult butterflies. There are about eight members involved with the butterfly house.

“Our mission is to find the baby caterpillars, we have plants that they lay their eggs on, and so we find the eggs and bring the eggs into our butterfly house so that the predators won’t devour them and then we watch them carefully,” Ms. Lee said.

“Inside we have plants that when they do hatch and come out of their cocoon they can eat some of the nectar plants. There is always a little bit of water in there for them and the person that is on location, if they see a butterfly, we have nets and they release the butterfly.

“It is the black swallowtail butterfly, which is New Jersey’s state butterfly, and right now there are some caterpillars in there and you see just how hungry they are. You can see how all of the leaves are totally gone. We think we buy enough plants for them to eat and we are always running out. You can see some of the plants are just sticks in there.”

“We have had about 60 caterpillars since June and released between 20 and 30 black swallowtail butterflies,” Ms. Pendino added. “Our goal always is to release the adult butterflies. Seeing the butterflies is the most fun part. They are just beautiful.”

This is an excerpt of the print article. For more on this story, read The Ocean Star—on newsstands Friday or online in our e-Edition.

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