Caring for Creation is a Privilege for Wheeling Jesuit Employee

  WJU News
  Monday, September 25, 2017 3:25 PM
  Service, WJU News

Wheeling, WV

People of all ages and walks of life have the opportunity to dedicate themselves to care for a part of creation that is around them and Wheeling Jesuit’s Kathy Tagg has been providing care to 104 Monarch butterflies this summer. 

kathy-tagg-web.jpgTagg, director of Disability Services at WJU and a West Virginia Master Naturalist, said, “Caring for creation is a privilege. I have chosen to care for one of God’s most amazing and beautiful creatures, the Monarch butterfly.”

This summer, she has been raising and photographing 104 Monarchs in her home from eggs to caterpillars to adults, and tagging them for Monarch Watch to track their long journey to Mexico for the winter.

Tagg said there were billions of this familiar orange, black and white West Virginia state butterfly about 20 years ago, but today the Monarch population has declined by 90 percent “and it needs humans to help it to survive.

“If the Monarch is left to develop in the wild, there is only a five percent chance of it maturing from egg to adult. This is due to predators, weather, parasites, diseases, excessive mowing and use of herbicides that deplete the milkweed supply, which is the Monarch caterpillar’s only edible food source and the only plant this butterfly uses to lay its eggs,” Tagg added.

She encourages people of any age to ‘adopt’ Monarch eggs and caterpillars found on milkweed plants. “If you take them indoors, you can raise them in a safe habitat. You need to feed the caterpillars milkweed leaves every day and then release them back into the wild when they become adult butterflies,” Tagg explained.

butterfly-web.jpgTagg initially learned about Monarchs and how to care for them from WJU alumna and former Oglebay Good Zoo director, Penny Miller, during the Master Naturalist program through the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources.

Since then, she has shared her love of Monarchs with several WJU employees who have become interested in raising Monarchs and milkweed themselves.

Institutional Research Data Analyst Ralph Seward, also a beekeeper, was inspired by Tagg to check his yard for milkweed – when he did, he found Monarch eggs and caterpillars that he now raises every year. 

Associate Academic Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Mark Drnach planted milkweed in his yard last fall and this year he ‘adopted’ some of Tagg’s Monarch caterpillars to raise and release at his home. Dr. Jane Neuenschwander, assistant professor of Education, asked Tagg to bring some Monarch eggs, caterpillars and chrysalides to her elementary education class for the WJU future teachers to observe and to develop lesson plans about Monarchs to use during their student teaching experience.

fr.-michael-steltenkamp-web.jpgWJU’s Professor of Theology, Rev. Michael Steltenkamp, S.J., also demonstrates his care for creation and love of nature with his commitment to protecting box turtles. He also grows organic milkweed in his on-campus garden, offering milkweed seeds to anyone who will plant them as a source of food for the Monarch. On this year’s 9/11 anniversary, Fr. Steltenkamp released one of Tagg’s Monarch butterflies from his garden, as a spiritual remembrance of those who lost their lives on that day.

According to Tagg, the Monarch undergoes a complete metamorphosis, developing from a minute egg laid by the female on a milkweed leaf, to a caterpillar who grows to 2,000 times the size of the egg in about two weeks, to transforming into an emerald colored chrysalis, and finally emerging as an adult with exquisite wings that look like a stained glass window. The adult Monarchs then migrate 2,000 miles to Mexico for the winter.

Tagg said that everyone can help the Monarch by planting milkweed in yards, apartment balconies, community gardens, vacant lots, school yards and gas line right of ways. A variety of milkweed serves not only as a food supply for the caterpillars, but also as nectar from the fragrant flowers for all pollinators, especially bees.

 “Monarchs are a miracle of God’s creation and all of us can play an important role in caring for them to support their survival so they will delight future generations,” she added.

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