Baldwin woman ready to share her love of butterflies
Mary Ellen Brue can remember growing up in Pepin County, spending many hours on the farm with her dad.
“Instead of being afraid of insects, my dad gave me daddy longlegs and I played with them,” she said.
The love of the outdoors and nature started then and hasn’t stopped. These days, Brue’s number one outdoor passion is the monarch butterfly.
“They are so beautiful,” she said of the insect, which she has raised for the last seven to eight years.
Brue will spread her wisdom about monarch butterflies as part of a new St. Croix Central Community Education class 10-11 a.m., Saturday, March 28, at the SCC Middle School Library. The cost of the class is $5.
Brue said the relationship started when sitting in a county Aging and Disability Resource Center meeting with Paulette Anderson, SCC Community Education director.
The two initially started talking about plants, and then it switched to monarch butterflies. Anderson asked if she would be willing to speak about them to which Brue said of course.
Just like a pet
The Baldwin native said her introduction to monarchs started purely by accident. She noticed milkweed growing in her flower bed one time. After waiting a few days, she was ready to chop off the plant until she noticed a caterpillar growing, which is one of the beginning stages of how the butterfly is formed.
Captivated by its beauty, Brue did her research on the process from caterpillar to butterfly and starting raising them around her home.
“It satisfied my need for a pet,” she said. “It’s a lot of work if you are serious about them.”
For example, she explained, the last thing she did every night during the growing season was make sure caterpillars had enough to eat in their containers and then filled them up again every morning.
She also told the story of one time a butterfly was beginning to hatch from its chrysalis, so she took it to a neighbor as she had to leave Baldwin.
“It’s like I’m a grandma to them,” she said.
The hatching process was a favorite activity of Mary Ellen, and her late husband Don, who died last October. The couple were married for 55 years and were the parents of two and and grandparents of four.
“He never complained about them,” she said.
Brue further explained the habitat for monarch butterflies has decreased over the years so much they’ve been put on the endangered species list. She attributes the decline to “our modern way of life.”
That’s why she was encouraged to find out the federal government pledged $3.2 million to help save the butterfly. According to a story from the Associated Press, about $2 million will restore more than 200,000 acres of habitat from California to the Corn Belt, including more than 750 schoolyard habitats and pollinator gardens. The rest will be used to start a conservation fund.
For information on how to sign up for the class, email Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.