Woman focuses on native species, helping ecosystem

DETROIT — Brenda Dziedzic flutters along the path inside Brenda’s Butterfly Habitat in Westland, and she spots a giant swallowtail that is weak and dying.

CRAZY FOR BUTTERFLIES: Brenda Dziedzic, founder of Brenda's Butterfly Habitat, holds a Giant Swallowtail she released at Barson's Greenhouse in Westland. (MCT photo)

She holds the butterfly up to a flower, begging for it to eat.

“Don’t die on me,” she says.

Dziedzic wears a yellow shirt decorated with butterflies, and she drives a car with a butterfly sunscreen, and she sports a tattoo on her right leg — two monarchs on swamp milkweed.

She is carefree and lighthearted. She feels a connection to butterflies. She understands them. And sometimes, yes, she feels like a butterfly, too, like a creature that has undergone a transformation.

Dziedzic has traveled around the world looking for butterflies, going from Mexico to the Amazon rainforest. She wrote a self-published book, “Butterflies in the Garden,” and in 2007, she helped form the Southeast Michigan Butterfly Association, a group of butterfly enthusiasts that has more than 100 members.

But that was just the start.

Dziedzic wants to educate the general public about how important butterflies are to the ecosystem. She is trying to encourage people to plant herbs and flowers that attract butterflies so that there will be more butterflies.

“If we didn’t have these butterflies and moths, we wouldn’t have our beautiful song birds and frogs and toads,” Dziedzic said. “They live off butterflies and caterpillars. It’s really important to help our ecosystem.”

She built a butterfly house at Barson’s Greenhouse in Westland, spending more than $20,000 of her own money to create a place that has nine types of butterflies and one moth — all native to Michigan.

“I love it in here,” Dziedzic said . “I know all these species are growing and life is happening. I’ll be able to educate so many people.”

Dziedzic, 59, grew up in Waterford playing in the woods and fields, trying to catch dragonflies and damselflies, butterflies and salamanders. “I’d dig up worms and fish all day,” she said. “Back then, I could take off all day and my parents didn’t have to worry about nothing. I’d just play in nature and have fun all the time.”

Somewhere along the way, she stopped playing in the woods. She was in an unhappy marriage for 13 years, she said. “I’ve lived through a lot of disasters.”

But she found solace in butterflies.

“I got back with God and everything is falling into place,” said Dziedzic, who has three children, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. “Life is so much better. I believe that, symbolically, the caterpillar is someone without God. Then the caterpillar makes its chrysalis. And it is like, after someone finds God, they become a new person. When somebody takes God into their life, they become a new creature. That’s my symbolism.”

When she looks at butterflies, Dziedzic sees “something that is very free. Very calming and free. Takes life easily. Very easy to get along with. It’s freedom. Such a peace to watch them.”

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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