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The butterfly effect

With this hobby, a postmaster doesn’t just wing it

A smiling woman holds a butterfly in her hand
Valarie Faria, the Selden, NY, postmaster, shows one of the butterflies she helped raise.

My name is Valarie Faria and I’m postmaster at the Selden, NY, Post Office.

When I’m not working, you might find me with my favorite winged creatures — butterflies.

I think I’ve always loved them. When I came across a video series about raising butterflies, I went out and bought some milkweed seeds. That was 2017, when I began to raise butterflies as a hobby with my young son. We both love gardening.

My process is to screen the milkweed — mostly swamp milkweed or common milkweed — daily for eggs. Milkweed is the only plant on which monarch butterflies will lay eggs, and baby caterpillars’ only source of sustenance.

If I spot some, I’ll pull up the plant, bring it inside and place it in one of my “critter containers” — kind of like a hermit crab container. They’re so tiny, I don’t want to give them too much room. They need to be able to reach the milkweed easily once they start crawling.

When they reach the chrysalis phase, I transfer them to the outdoor butterfly house. I name them all — Blossom, Joy, mostly flower names.

In 11 to 13 days, they arrive at the butterfly phase. I let them sit for a day, to make sure their wings are completely dry and it’s safe for them to be released in nature.

It requires a level of dedication. It’s time-consuming. You can’t go on vacation. If I go away — I was on a travel detail assignment in 2021 — my son Marck takes over. He’s 11 now, and amazing at it. We’re a good team.

In all, I’ve released about 1,400 to 1,600 butterflies since I started. It is vital that we safeguard monarchs, and I am passionate about helping to increase their population.

“Off the Clock,” a column on Postal Service employees and their after-hours pursuits, appears regularly in Link.