Annual Forest Hill butterfly program still engaging residents after five years

Life enrichment aide Shannon Lynch and resident Evelyn Boles are pictured here with one of the painted lady butterflies the folks at the Kanata long-term care home helped raise.

Residents help raise the tiny creatures from caterpillars to painted ladies

A program that engages Forest Hill residents in the life cycle of butterflies each June is still going strong five years after life enrichment aide (LEA) Shannon Lynch hatched the idea at the Kanata long-term care home.

The life enrichment team once again ordered butterfly larvae from a supplier in late spring and, with residents’ help, aided the creatures through their journey from being caterpillars to painted lady butterflies.

Sixty larvae were ordered from Boreal Science this year, and 42 made it through the cycle to become butterflies – “a very good result,” Shannon says.

The kit comes with food, which residents and staff prepared for the larvae once each was placed into individual cups.

Shortly after the larvae arrived they formed themselves into chrysalides, casings made from hardened protein. Residents and staff members hung the chrysalides in a tent. Since each chrysalis needs to stay moist, the inside of the tent was often lightly sprayed with water.

The chrysalides then hatched into butterflies. Forest Hill staff members wanted residents to enjoy the winged creatures up close and personal for a few days, so they kept them inside the tent and brought residents in for visits.

Residents enjoyed watching the butterflies flutter about and land on them.

The program is particularly beneficial to residents who are affected by agitation, Shannon says. The LEA adds that being inside the tent with the butterflies will calm residents who are experiencing agitation.

Finally, the butterflies were released back into nature on June 19, and residents and staff members got to say their goodbyes.

Given the popularity of the annual program, it’s one the home plans to continue, says life enrichment co-ordinator Craig Forrest.

“This is always really popular, not just with the residents, but with the family members as well,” he says.

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