A monarch’s journey

Middle school’s butterfly garden brings life to campus


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A tagged monarch butterfly in the middle school’s courtyard butterfly garden.

As of last year, Ms. Jeanine Ging and Dr. Brian Wargo set up a butterfly garden in the middle school’s courtyard. This butterfly garden was implemented into Ging’s science lessons as a way to show the students how the insects blossom. The students receive the butterflies as eggs, and they care for them until they hatch. From here, the students have to feed the newly hatched caterpillars. Once the weather clears up, they place the caterpillars outside in bug nets to let them form their chrysalis. 

In Ging’s virtual butterfly unit, she would set up her work desk and do a multitude of different activities with them. She would tag the butterflies while the students were watching. 

“So, it’s, you know, a big citizen science project that you can kinda see what migration paths are like and how it’s affecting other creatures,” Ging said. 

One of their main focuses was the migration pattern. They found that the captive raised butterflies were significantly worse off than wild butterflies. 

This year though, Ging tested butterflies for a parasite called Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE) There were 53 samples that were being used to test with. Within those 53 samples, only one of the butterflies had the parasite.  

As of recently, the garden had to be put on hold due to COVID-19, not unlike many other things. There are big plans for the garden now that they’re back in school. They plan to add two memorial pieces. One of the memorial pieces, in the form of a bench, would represent Dave Matthews, a former school official in the middle school, who passed away earlier this year. The second memorial, in the form of a telescope, is for former science teacher Rich Heisler who passed away this year. In addition to these memorial pieces, they’ll also be setting up a greenhouse. One of the last additions will be a pumpkin patch for their pollinators. 

In addition to Ging’s butterflies, Wargo has also dabbled in butterfly rearing. He has his own sort of butterfly house behind the highschool. Though they’re both working together on this project, Ging freely admits that Wargo had better butterflies than her. 

On the other hand, Wargos main focus was diversifying and beautifying the campus. Not only have they implemented a butterfly sanctuary, but have also added a bat house, and a bee house. In a way, he wanted to make sure everything came full circle. The wildflowers and milkweed attract several kinds of insects including butterflies and bees. The influx of insects will feed the bats and pollinate the vegetation. In a way, all of these factors create an ecosystem.

Contrary to Ging’s statement, Wargo said that she is the queen of butterflies, adding that Ging had tagged over 100 butterflies just this year, “..so, uh, I cannot compete.”