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The 97-year-old with butterflies in her living room


Geza Farkas | Shutterstock

Cerith Gardiner - published on 09/01/21

Gwen Erickson shows us it's never too late to help as she works to save an endangered species.

As she approaches a century, Gwen Erickson from Minnesota has begun raising one of America’s most popular, yet endangered, butterflies — the Monarch.

Last year the grandmother managed to raise 27 butterflies and this year the number has gone up to 61, and there are still more to come.

Interestingly, the butterflies don’t fare so well out in the wild, with only 10% reaching maturity, whereas when humans get involved in the process, the survival rate is more like 90%. And so far the nonagenarian doesn’t believe she’s lost any yet.

While some might say that nature should be left to fend for itself, the butterflies’ population is declining rapidly and is in need of a little extra help and attention. Thankfully, that love and devotion is exactly what the 97-year-old is able to give her little winged friends.

The whole process is a little time-consuming, beginning with the senior collecting eggs from the milkweed leaves that grow in a small patch in her backyard. She then carefully places the eggs in jars on her living room table, which is the ideal location since it is fully exposed to natural sunlight.

Within three to four days, the caterpillar emerges and then, after a few weeks, forms a chrysalis. A fortnight later the beautiful butterfly emerges. Erickson then releases the butterflies into the wild, although a couple seem a little reticent to leave their loving home and keep the senior company by flying around the house.

“I just think the process is fascinating,” the grandmother shared, as reported by Post Bulletin. While she’d hoped her grandchildren would have developed an interest in these exquisite insects when she first introduced them to the process at their lake many years ago, it seems that she has to try and inspire them instead with her own efforts.

While ordinarily Erickson doesn’t like to talk about herself and what she gets up to, she’s happy to encourage others to look out for and care for this endangered species. And happily a friend and her son have joined her in her newfound passion and hopefully we’ll see a turn around in those diminishing numbers.

This hobby, started so late in life, is a fine example of people caring for the smaller things in life. Although the senior says it helps her get out into the fresh air, it also allows her to set a great example to younger generations, and remind us that it’s never too late to be purposeful in life.

Erickson is just one of many elderly members of society who inspire younger generations. If you click on the slideshow below you’ll discover further stories of these fabulous seniors.

Acts of KindnessCatholic LifestyleElderly
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