Reflections on a Shady Oak Butterfly Farm Internship

Reflections on a Shady Oak Butterfly Farm Internship – A Journey of Heart and Mind

Written by Belinda Manix

I received a family-like welcome when I arrived which began to give me a hint of the generosity of spirit I would experience.  I found Edith and her family to be kind, sharing and gracious.  It’s more than you can hope for or imagine.

This is the premiere experience for the butterfly enthusiast, a hobbyist or even someone thinking about getting into butterfly breeding as a business.

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You’ll go “roaming” to learn about and find plants that support the butterfly ecosystem – they usually go unnoticed in your yard or along the roadside.  You’ve simply never noticed them but they’re essential to understand.  In your trips to the field, you’ll find butterfly eggs and caterpillars; you’ll see both the host and nectar plants that each butterfly specie’s needs; you’ll be treated to hands-on teaching that carries into the classroom at Shady Oak.

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The knowledge, general and specific, flows from Edith and the Team – she doesn’t refer to them as employees.  It will be a most gratifying experience.  I’m a bit of a late sleeper but looked forward to early rising for another day of learning and surprising adventure.

Of all the things I remember, it is the peacefulness and quiet joy at the farm.  You hear the birds and the gentle voices of the workers – and that’s all.  Upon return home, I had something of a sensory overload just from the blast of sounds from traffic and loud voices everywhere.

You’ll learn everything about butterflies.  Egg gathering as well as the care taken to provide a healthy environment for the eggs to hatch and the caterpillars to grow.  It simply can’t be too clean for Edith and the Team   Everything is sanitized and disinfected daily – the floors and the countertops.  They actually carefully bleach the eggs themselves to guard against disease.  They will teach you about the diseases and parasites of both the butterflies and the plants they need.  They go far above and beyond to value and honor the life-cycle of the butterfly.

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You’ll learn how to feed different kinds of butterflies.  You’ll also collect the pupae at the right time.

Did you know you can tell the sex of the butterfly in the pupae stage?  Edith teaches a great deal at the microscope.  You will see and learn some things that will almost make you cry at the beauty and magnificence of nature.

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The Team is so patient and kind if you make a mistake…I know I made some.  They are also extremely patient with all of your questions.  They support your learning.   They teach you plant propagation.

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They actually showed me how to “hand pair” two Monarchs to ensure they mated.  I learned how to catch and prepare butterflies for a wedding release for a bride’s special day.

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My internship was so special that words fail me.  I would do it, again, in a minute.  I’m sorry I waited so long to enroll.  Here is a gentle, loving family that treats you like you are one of theirs.  It is much more than an internship.  My husband was amazed at the amount of learning I achieved in such a short period of time.  I owe it to Edith and the Team.  If you love butterflies, you’ll love them even more after your internship at the Shady Oak Butterfly Farm.