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.