- Associated Press - Friday, June 27, 2014

ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) - The monarch butterfly flapped its wings until it got higher and higher, eventually gliding over the roof of the building, fading into the distance.

It was a symbol of life, hope and beauty at the Harter House on Thursday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the house’s new butterfly way station.

Residents gathered outside under the shade as Cathy Cole, who raises butterflies and milkweed, talked about her growing interest in the creatures.

“I became interested in monarchs as a little kid,” she told The Herald Bulletin (http://bit.ly/1lvfAiZ ). “I had to go out in the bean field and weed my dad’s beans, up and down the rows. We got a penny a row, (and) we got extra for killing the milkweed because they were very, very aggressive weeds in the bean field.”

Because of the plant’s aggressiveness, farmers over the years have become more reliant on pesticides, she said, cutting off monarch butterflies’ only food source.

So about three months ago, she and Harter House activities director Rita Drews put together a plan to fix up part of the house’s garden and get it certified as a monarch way station habitat.

“It’s very rewarding to save a part of nature,” Drews said.

Harter House employees and various volunteers helped clean up a portion of the garden and planted different types of milkweed for the butterflies to eat. Facilities manager Linda Harshman and her husband also painted a mural with a monarch and red, yellow, orange and violet milkweed in full bloom.

The way station provides more than the resources necessary for the monarchs to survive. Those running the area also put tags on the butterflies so spotters can confirm they’re still alive when they migrate to Mexico later in the year.

Drews said she and Cole spent about three months preparing and getting certified, which required them to meet certain requirements and complete a registration process.

Cole’s been raising butterflies, monarch and other types, for the garden. She said during the ceremony that they’re already into the second generation.

She pulled out a green wire and mesh basket during the ceremony, filled with fluttering monarchs. Mayor Kevin Smith released the first one, followed by a little girl and Harter House president and CEO Robert Reeder.

Residents then gathered to release butterflies, including resident Alfrida Ogle, who said she’s never experienced anything like it.

She and other residents sometimes go to Mounds State Park, where they see butterflies. Ogle’s happy they now have it in their own backyard.

“It’s gorgeous,” she said. “I sit by the window in the dining room. Sometimes I forget I’m eating because I’m watching everything out here.”

Harshman said the residents have spent countless hours watching everyone paint, plant and fix things up for the station.

“They love it because to them, it means new life, and that’s what they really love,” she said.

Reeder said even helping save a small portion of monarchs is important, and that the residents couldn’t be happier. The station also gives a focus to the garden, he said.

“I don’t think there’s a more beautiful animal than a butterfly, especially monarchs,” he said.

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Information from: The Herald Bulletin, http://www.theheraldbulletin.com

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