10 Years of Butterflies: A Mom’s Annual Project Captures her Children Growing Up

Moira West


For Kirsten Spencer’s family, taking photos with monarch butterflies is as much a part of September as going back to school. “When I had children, my mother’s house had a patch of milkweed and we’d go out and we’d look for a patch of [butterfly] eggs.” They’d raise the butterflies up from eggs, taking photos when the monarchs emerged from their chrysalis.

Courtesy of Kirsten Spencer

Since Kirsten started photographing her children with butterflies in 2006, she’s amassed quite a collection of photos. In order to share them, she created the video below, which illustrates how they raise their butterflies — and how Kirsten’s children have grown in the 10 years since they started hatching them.

Take a look at her video, and then read our interview with her to find out more about her story.

Style: Documentary
Song: “The Story Unfolds” by Dan Phillipson

MOIRA: When did you start collecting butterfly eggs with your children?

KIRSTEN: 2006 was our first year. My daughter was 2, my son was 3, and we would find the eggs, hatch them, watch how they’d grow, and then chrysalis — the whole nine yards. And then they’d cry every time a new butterfly would fly away to Mexico.

MOIRA: Are they still excited about butterflies 10 years later?

KIRSTEN: They don’t cry when the butterflies go to Mexico now, but they still love it. It’s just part of our DNA at this point. It’s just what we do. It’s emotional — there’s such a connection. They’re our pets. I mean, this is the first year all 50 caterpillars don’t have names.

Image Courtesy of Kirsten Spencer

MOIRA: Why did you want to create a video?

KIRSTEN: I’ve been a professional photographer since ‘94, and I had all these pictures in my archives for all these years that I wanted to add to a video. Then, when I found Animoto, I said, oh my God! I can just go in every year and add to it!

MOIRA: Do you think your children will keep raising butterflies in the future?

KIRSTEN: It’s just what we do. We brush our teeth every morning and we take butterfly pictures in September. And I think this is something that they’ll do with their kids. I don’t doubt it. It’s just such a part of back to school. So I really hope it’s a tradition that carries on.

Kirsten is a newborn, children’s, and portrait photographer in western Massachusetts. You can see more of her photography on her website,

Do you have a video you’d like to share with us? Reach out like Kirsten did on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram by tagging @Animoto.