News & Events

Monarch butterflies emerge at ACH Outpatient Therapy building

August 8, 2012

Inside the Alliance Community Hospital (ACH) Outpatient Therapy Building it is typical to see equipment such as stationary bikes, stretching bands and balancing boards -- and Monarch butterflies, of course.

That's right; ACH's Therapy Services department isn't just a place for healing humans -- it is also a Monarch butterfly habitat, courtesy of Occupational Therapy Assistant and butterfly midwife Daryl Holt.

"I have a passion for butterflies and want to share it with others," said Holt, who began bringing Monarch caterpillars to the therapy building three years ago in order to give patients something beautiful and positive to focus on as they perform their exercises. "The way they change from tiny caterpillars to beautiful butterflies is a miracle and everyone needs to see it."

Therapy patients have the opportunity to witness the entire metamorphosis. Several times during the summer, Holt harvests Monarch eggs in the wild (around her home) and then she brings them to work. Patients see the tiny caterpillars emerge, grow bigger through their times of coming back for therapy, and eventually adult butterflies break free of the chrysalises and are released.

"The butterflies distract the patients from their pain. They are purposely located at the entrance to the therapy rooms, so the patients have to walk by them," Holt said. "Our patients enjoy watching the as the caterpillars change into adult butterflies."

This metamorphosis is not limited to the butterflies; it can also represent the stages of patients' therapy sessions. Holt explained patients may start with surgery and experiencing a lot of pain, then progress through four or five weeks of therapy where they work to increase movement, build-up strength and regain confidence, until finally they reach a point where there is little to no pain.

The patients each have their own way of identifying with the butterflies. Holt spoke of an individual who enjoys seeing the gold markings on the chrysalises because they resemble a necklace, similar to the gold one she wears during therapy. "Patients just can't help smiling when they see the butterflies," Holt said. "They brighten everyone's day."

As a self-proclaimed "butterfly midwife," Holt has 66 caterpillars at her home residence, some of whom will make an appearance at the therapy building when they are a bit bigger.

Holt began caring for butterflies 12 years ago when she discovered a strange looking caterpillar in her garden. Through research she learned the proper ways to care for the caterpillars and release Monarch butterflies. As her interest in butterflies grew, Holt became a member of Monarch Watch, a program based at the University of Kansas, which tags and releases Monarch butterflies. The tags provide detailed information about the life and migration patterns of the species.

"When I release butterflies I always say a prayer for someone," Holt said. "Then I watch as they soar; it's my favorite part."

To watch a detailed story about Holt and her butterfly therapy, go to and click on "Daryl's Story."

To learn more about Alliance Community Hospital services, go to or visit the hospital's Facebook page.

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