Mike Evans with some of the monarch butterflies he is helping rear. Photo: Sara Hollyman.

Mike puts mind to saving monarchs


A Tahunanui resident is offering monarch butterflies a chance at salvation.

Mike Evans has an “active mind” which he put to good use throughout his life as a marine engineer, but more than four years ago health complications meant he had to say goodbye to physical work.

He says, initially it was a struggle to fill in his time, but then he discovered monarch butterflies.

It all started with a friend telling him that they had found some “huge plants” with eggs on them, so he took some cuttings.

Swan plants around the region are generally bare as wasps kill the caterpillars soon after the egg hatches.

“They don’t stand a chance,” Mike says.

His operation has grown to include three terrariums and two tents in his back yard to grow the monarchs.

The circle of life begins with the eggs, which Mike has set up in a $35 Kmart tent.

“We are lamenting the fact that we are losing the monarchs and people think it’s too hard, but it’s so easy.”

Once they hatch, they are transferred into a terrarium where they grow until they reach adult stage.

Mike then transfers them into the chrysalis terrarium to see out their final days as a caterpillar.

A custom-made mesh lid gives them something to cling onto while they await the transformation into a butterfly.

Some of them head to a friend of Mike’s place in Todds Valley, others are transferred into a second tent in the back yard to breed and lay more eggs.

One leaf in this tent has 21 eggs on it.

Mike estimates he has at least 150 caterpillars, hundreds of eggs, 20 butterflies and has so far successfully hatched more than 90 chrysalises.

“It’s pretty frustrating not being able to do physical work, so what does an active mind do?”

He says he would love to see kindergartens and schools get into it if they want to and is more than happy to show people how easy it is to set up.

“It’s probably not going to save the world but it’s an awesome feeling when you see kids buzzing on them.

“It’s definitely better than sitting on my arse doing nothing,” say Mike.