Whoever first said "Diamonds are a girl's best friend" never met Morgan Harrington.
For Morgan, life is about butterflies.
The Elba 9-year-old has taken the lead in a family project to find and catalogue as many types of caterpillars at the Harrington Greenhouses as possible.
There are 72 different species of butterflies and moths in Genesee County, and the Harringtons would like to find all 72.
"Now that we started this, we find that when we go through the nursery, we find them everywhere," said Morgan's dad, Aaron. "We're going to learn what we can about each of them."
Morgan -- who is assisted by her 8-year-old sister Madison -- uses field books to identify each kind of caterpillar, butterfly and moth she comes across. She keeps a log of each discovery, from the date of the find up through each stage of life for the insect -- from larva to caterpillar to winged creature.
"I really like it because I started doing it after one of my pets died," Morgan said.
Her simple explanation belies her obvious enthusiasm for the project. She can teach you more about butterflies in 30 minutes than you could learn in a high school biology class. Morgan can talk intelligently about each stage in the life cycle and identify on sight a dozen or more species, including what they eat and where they live.
"We decided to do this because we didn't want our kids growing up not understanding how things work in life," said Aaron, who runs the greenhouse business with his wife, Danielle.
The business in its current incarnation is 25 years old and was started by his father, though there was a greenhouse business on the same North Byron Road location years before that.
The Harrington's raise a variety of annuals, perennials, shrubs, bushes and trees, as much as possible without pesticides (though with non-native species of insects, pesticides are about the only option), and the butterfly project has made Madison and Morgan more aware of the insect species around them.
"It's good for them to learn the different types of beneficial and non-beneficial types of animals," Aaron said.
Even some caterpillars -- such as the rose saw fly -- are far too destructive to host plants, Aaron noted, but of course, monarch butterflies are beautiful and help spread pollen.
The girls have found a couple dozen monarch caterpillars, a few of which are already curled up in cocoons. When the butterflies emerge, Morgan said, she will take them to a nearby milkweed patch and release them (monarchs eat milkweed because the plant's sap produces a toxin in the caterpillars that birds avoid).
All of the caterpillars live in a shared aquarium where they can munch on preferred clippings of milkweed, walnut or willow leaves.
The shared housing has led to another lesson -- one variety of caterpillar will eat its siblings if given a chance.
"I always say I don't want my kids growing up to think fish comes square and already breaded," Aaron said. "I want them to see an animal's life cycle from beginning to end learn about it."