His nickname may be Hoppy, but to many at Fredericka Manor, Howard Weiss is also affectionately known as the "butterfly whisperer," a well-suited moniker that describes his passion for saving the community's dwindling monarch population.
"Butterflies have always been native to Fredericka Manor," Hoppy says. "The community's lush landscape is perfect for a butterfly waystation and safe house. Just like us, they are a sign of freedom. Within the first ten seconds of flight, butterflies learn how to fly and then they are off."
Self-educated on the care of monarchs, Hoppy built the community's first waystation to support another resident's interest in conserving the monarch butterfly. Since then, the monarch butterfly has become the unofficial mascot of Fredericka Manor.
His love of butterflies began after initially requesting a community garden parcel at Fredericka Manor to grow a pumpkin. Inspired by a fellow resident gardener, Hoppy soon found himself researching and becoming more passionate about saving the dwindling monarch population and instead of growing pumpkins, he learned how to plant and maintain milkweeds for a waystation instead. Milkweed is the sole host plant for the monarch and its flowers provide valuable food for them. The waystation serves as a habitat for monarchs to rest, breed, lay eggs, and get nectar during their migration and provides a source of food for caterpillars. To address predators, Hoppy built a "safe house" covered with polyester mesh so caterpillars can safely transform into a pupa enclosed in a hardened protective case, also known as a chrysalis. When butterflies emerge from the chrysalis, they are released into the great outdoors.
"After the butterflies come out of their chrysalis I open the door of the safe house and the most spectacular thing is watching a butterfly fly for the first 15 seconds of its butterfly life," Hoppy said. "They just take off. That moment is my favorite part of this entire experience." In 2020, Hoppy estimates he has released about 100 butterflies.
After residents embraced the waystation, the monarch butterfly symbol made its way into a collaborative quilt project (coming to the Front Porch Gallery in November, 2020) featuring residents contributions from all Front Porch communities. The final quilt will showcase residents' creativity and their personal interpretation of what the monarch butterfly means to them collectively and individually. Residents received a fabric square to decorate and incorporate the butterfly theme via paint, images, embroidery, and more. Each square sewn together will form one large quilt.
Resident Linda Wright coordinated the quilt project at Fredericka Manor reaching out and encouraging residents to participate. So far, 27 residents are involved, including members of the resident-led sewing group and others interested in arts and crafts.
"The presence of the monarch is evident when you enter the community," Linda said. "There are images throughout the property and residents genuinely care about their conservation."
Butterflies are a deep and powerful representation of life. "With their unexpected beauty, the monarch gives people a feeling of liberation that they can go anywhere and do anything," added Linda. Fredericka Manor embodies the essence of the monarch by celebrating the individual and supporting passions so residents can live life their way.