Let Them Fly - Spears Raising Butterflies from Backyard

Adam Black, Editor

The Ashland Beacon


   Most people have heard of the Mothman from West Virginia, but very few know of the Butterfly Lady in Ashland, Kentucky.

   While she does not transform into a butterfly herself, Sandy Spears has been raising and releasing butterflies from her backyard for years, starting from small eggs and larva to beautiful butterflies ready to flutter around her garden and Ashland.

   “It just kind of became a hobby of mine,” Spears said. “It started with one evening just watching butterflies in my garden.”

   Spears watched as butterflies flew around her backyard and lay their eggs on the plants she had.

“One day I went and got a few eggs and started taking care of them,” Spears said.

   Spears watches the eggs until they hatch into caterpillars. She waits for the caterpillars to reach about a quarter of an inch long and then places them in a special nest where they are safe from predators.

   “It’s a very fine mesh netting-like basket,” Spears said. “Not even ants can get into it.”

   Once the caterpillars are in the nest, Spears regularly feeds them their favorite plants, including milkweed, and within a month the caterpillars start to form their chrysalis.

   “Once they are in their chrysalis it takes about 10 days for them to break out and transform into a butterfly,” Spears said. “It’s really so much fun to see them come out and see the different colors and patterns.”

   Spears raises two types of butterflies, the Zebra Swallowtail and the Monarch butterfly.

   “I learned most just on my own, did a little bit of research, but it has become my summer project,” Spears said.

   With her backyard full of flowers, Spears said it is the perfect place to attract butterflies.

   “Last year I released I think 13 butterflies,” Spears said.

   One of Spears favorite moments about raising the butterflies is after they come out of their chrysalis and sit on her hands till they realize they can fly.

   “It’s just so funny to watch them start flapping their wings and taking off into the sky,” Spears said. “They are just beautiful to watch.”

   This year, with already 17 butterflies released into her backyard, Spears said she is looking forward to raising a few more before the summer season is finished.

   “It’s just something I love to do,” Spears said.