Rachel Dyck, For the Independent
Last Wednesday evening, the Elmira and District Horticultural Society’s Junior Gardeners meeting was humming with activity as young gardeners participated in an interactive workshop on butterflies.
Led by Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory Naturalist Andalyne Tofflemire, the evening was an opportunity for the group to learn about the vital role that insects play in healthy gardens.
“It’s important to connect (kids) back to the natural world,” said Tofflemire. “Not just nature on the whole, but the nature around them every day.”
Tofflemire touched on a variety of different critters in her presentation, including the live Darkling Beetles she passed around, but her focus was on teaching the group about Swallowtail and Monarch butterflies. This year’s Junior Gardeners are growing plants such as dill and parsley to attract both types of butterflies in hopes that they will lay eggs on the backs of the leaves of certain plants.
As they observe the butterflies over the course of the season, the gardeners are learning how to tell different butterflies apart, what their migration habits are and what they like to eat.
In addition to making a craft for attracting butterflies to their gardens at home and playing a Monarch migration game, workshop participants got a butterfly’s perspective on the world by peering through lenses designed to imitate the insect’s eye, which is made up of thousands of tiny parts.
“Insects live with us pretty much every day, so I think it’s good to stop and appreciate them too,” said Tofflemire.
Earlier in the season, the Junior Gardeners learned about earthworms and soil when they were visited by guest speaker Marg Ribey, a Certified Crop Advisor and Soil Resource Group consultant who holds a Master’s degree in Science.
Junior Gardeners co-ordinator Marlene Snyder sees the value in having professionals share their expertise with the group. She is grateful to the Elmira and District Horticultural Society for the funds they put towards special events and thanked Barb Finn specifically for organizing Tofflemire’s visit.