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'It’s just amazing to watch': Local woman raises monarch butterflies

On the front porch of a home in Ailsa Craig stands a queen, and the creatures who hang from clothespins represent her queendom.

Just as the sign reads, you have entered ‘Nancy’s Monarchy.’

The sole purpose of Nancy Michielsen’s rule is to help the declining monarch butterfly population.

She began with just a few ‘subjects’ in 2020. Now, three years on, her queendom has reached 260 monarchs in various stages of their lifecycle.

“It started during the lockdown. I was looking for something to do during COVID. One of my daughters was raising monarch butterflies. And, it just grew quickly into what you see here,” she explained.

Nancy Michielsen stands in front of her 'monarchy' in Ailsa Craig, Ont. Behind her along her front window are hundreds of caterpillars in various stages of their lifecycle. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London)Beginning in mid-July, Nancy spends up to eight hours a day caring for her favourite insects.

She begins by collecting tiny monarch butterfly eggs from the leaves of milkweed plants.

Next, she feeds them through the caterpillar and chrysalis stage until they emerge as butterflies.

So far this week, 85 have hatched with the rest expected to pop out by week’s end.

“It’s a miracle every time. I’ve sat here on my porch, and it is a little miracle. It’s just amazing to watch,’ she said.

A newly hatched monarch butterfly at Nancy Michielsen’s home is is tagged for tracking before it begins a journey to Mexico. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London)

The adult monarchs will spend a few hours drying before spreading their wings and heading out into the wild.

Just before they flutter, Nancy tags their wings on behalf of the conservation group

The tags also let her know how many butterflies make it to their wintertime home in Mexico.

Nancy is hopeful most do, but she is already proud of her success in Ailsa Craig.

“More than 95 per cent survive,” she said.

A camera catches the moment a butterfly emerges at 'Nancy's Monarchy' in Ailsa, Craig, Ont. Nancy Michielsen is determined to save monarch butterflies. (Submitted)That’s well above the 10 per cent rate in the wild, where predators and the clearing of their milkweed food source have reduced the population.

But thanks to Queen Nancy’s conservation message, more milkweeds are showing up in Ailsa Craig and beyond.

After all, who wants to go against the decree of a monarchy?

“I get a few people saying, ‘Hey, there’s the queen, and they wave and listen,” she concluded with a laugh. Top Stories

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