Bringing Students and Butterflies Back to New York this Year

This is an article taken from our Spring 2011 Newsletter. Stay tuned for more on Thomas and the butterflies this week!

It is a well known fact that the Coming Home Expansion, which broke ground last summer, will be bringing twenty-four students back to Springbrook when it is completed in April of 2012. LeChase Construction Services, the construction management firm that undertook the $22.5 million project, knew this going in, but what they did not know was they would also be embarking on a project to bring thousands of Monarch Butterflies home.

Taylor house resident, Thomas, is a near expert on Monarch Butterflies and has the unique ability to teach the subject in great detail. Want to know how many eggs the Monarch Butterfly can lay in a week? Thomas can tell you: 700. What does the Monarch Caterpillar turn into before it becomes a butterfly? Thomas can let you know: A chrysalis. Care to dive into the vast subject of butterfly migration patterns? Thomas will happily fill you in. But the most valuable piece of information came late last year when the Coming Home Expansion became a reality and construction broke ground, endangering the Monarch Butterfly habitat on the Springbrook campus Thomas has come to know so well.

During the groundbreaking ceremony on July 29, 2010, Thomas approached members of the LeChase Construction Services team and informed them that with the current project expansion the crew would be destroying the habitat of thousands of Monarch butterflies. It would also endanger a four generation, 2,000 mile migration that has been occurring for hundreds of years. The construction crew, and in particular Ron Clark, the quality assurance manager, took the information to heart, and went with Thomas to the Joseph L. Popp, Jr. Butterfly Conservatory in Oneonta to get a detailed profile of the Monarch butterfly. Soon after, they began to hatch out a plan to save the beautiful orange and black butterflies.

It was decided that the best way to attract the butterflies would be through the use of milkweed plants. “The milkweed plant is the only plant material that Monarch caterpillars can eat,” says Thomas. Remove Monarch caterpillars from milkweed and they will starve; or they will eat other plant material, get sick, and then die. Milkweed is a very serious issue when it comes to Monarch butterflies. Thanks to Thomas, as soon as the ground thaws, LeChase will put hundreds of these plants on a stretch of field west of the Springbrook School so we can welcome students and butterflies back to Springbrook next year.

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