This past weekend we were invited to a celebratory 60th birthday party at our local Butterfly House. We thought it was an apt site for the party because while most of us are familiar with the 12 animal Chinese zodiac, the reality is that the complete Chinese zodiac requires going around the 12 year cycle five times – when you begin again. The 60th year can be challenging, but it can also be a time of new beginnings. The butterfly coming out of its chrysalis seemed a perfect metaphor.
We had never been to a Butterfly House before and it was an amazing experience – to walk through a steamy jungle where the air was alive with 4000 butterflies, some of which would occasionally settle on one of us – as did the Owl butterfly.
Before we went into the conservatory we were warned not to touch the butterflies because our fingers would destroy the scales that give the butterflies their color and pattern, and protect the wings. When I saw this Glasswing I thought at first that it had been handled too much and was on the verge of death because the wings were transparent. It was not until I left and bought an identification chart in the gift shop that I saw that was not the case.
It was hard to photograph the butterflies. They did not like to pose very much. Most of my photos are out of focus, or the butterfly flew off at the critical moment.
The Blue Morpho is one of the largest butterflies, but it is really noticeable as it flies because of its iridescent blue wings. More specifically, the blue of the top of its wings. The underside, which is what is seen then the butterfly closes its wings are dull spotted brown which provides camouflage when it is at rest, and makes the butterfly seem to disappear as it flutters through the trees.
We got a good look at this butterfly which was fascinating in its imitation of a leaf.
But, like the Blue Morpho, this butterfly only has camouflage in one position.
Throughout the conservatory I saw stakes topped with red or blue ‘sponges’ soaked with nectar that attracted the butterflies. As I left I noticed a bird bath filled with rotting bananas as well as a nectar soaked blue sponge. This reminded me that a children’s butterfly book I read described a way to attract butterflies to the garden. The need nectar flowers, and plants for the larval stages, but they also need water, and they like sweet rotting fruit.
The Butterfly House was certainly a beautiful way to get a lesson about these beautiful creatures who are also important pollinators.