Nova Scotia

Endangered monarch butterflies reign at White Point Beach

The White Point Beach Resort might be known for its abundant rabbits, but spectacular monarch butterflies are coming to life in a program aimed to increase their population.

'We’ve been checking on them every day just to make sure they are doing OK'

Nicole Hubley is the butterfly project co-ordinator with the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

The White Point Beach Resort is known for its bunny population, but those rabbits now have some competition with another form of wildlife taking centre stage.

Spectacular monarch butterflies are coming to life in a program aimed to increase their population.

The resort is working with the Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute to use its butterfly expertise in an effort to get monarch butterflies off the endangered species list.

Milkweed the key

"In Nova Scotia, we are promoting monarch butterfly habitat by planting milkweed, which is the only food source for monarch caterpillars," said Nicole Hubley, butterfly project co-ordinator with the Mersey Tobeatic institute. "It's the only plant they'll lay their eggs on and, if we can get people aware of this, we can plant it here in Nova Scotia."

Monarch butterflies are becoming celebrities with resort staff and guests alike. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

That's where the seaside resort near Liverpool comes in.

They started some milkweed seeds in a greenhouse and then put the small plants in several areas around the resort.

"We've been very lucky to have monarch butterflies and caterpillars around here this year," said Wendy Coolen, a horticulturist at White Point Beach Resort. "We've seen upwards of a hundred caterpillars and probably about 20 butterflies that have emerged so far."

The monarch butterflies at White Point are quickly gaining celebrity status.

Guests at the resort love seeing the bright orange and black butterflies in the gardens.

Staff enjoying the show

It's also been a big deal for the staff at White Point.

"We've been checking on them every day just to make sure they are doing OK,"  said housekeeper Shirley Wambolt. "We've been putting cardboard over them so no one would knock them off, or the wind would knock them off. We've been taking care of them every step of the way."

What amazes Wambolt, and the others at White Point, is how the caterpillars morph out of their black, white and yellow stripes.

As many as 100 caterpillars have been spotted around the property this summer. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Their bodies peel into a chrysalis and then emerge as a black and orange monarch butterfly. The entire process takes about a month.

"There really is quite a process, the way they go from tiny caterpillars into their chrysalis and they hang upside down," said Coolen. "To watch the butterflies open up, it's so beautiful and it's amazing."

The monarch butterflies will eventually migrate to Mexico. Over the last few years there has been a dramatic reduction in their numbers in Canada.

Good year for the monarchs

But the Mersey Tobeatic institute is hoping to change that and are educating youth on what they can do to help.

The monarch butterflies getting their start in Nova Scotia will migrate to Mexico. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

"We do definitely push the habitat restoration of the monarchs by planting the milkweed plants, but I also do environmental education with children in schools," said Hubley.

She said it's been a good year for the monarch butterflies in Nova Scotia.

The hot, dry weather is believed to have played a role in that success, but there is now a concern the cool night time temperatures could harm them.

Read more articles at CBC Nova Scotia


Paul Palmeter is an award-winning video journalist born and raised in the Annapolis Valley. He has covered news and sports stories across the province for 30 years.