by Kristen Wolenberg, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Public Relations & Marketing Intern
As soon as I walked into the Conservatory’s North Wing I felt like I was in a tropical oasis. There are lots of green plants at every height that add to the beauty and make you feel like you have just walked into a rainforest in Brazil. Walking through the Butterflies LIVE! Exhibit is an unbelievable experience. Everywhere you look there are majestic butterflies that are as big as your fist. Butterflies love laying in the sun, especially on the warm stone on the floor, and so watch your step throughout the exhibit. One thing I learned was that butterflies do not eat, but drink. They will feed on nectar from plant flowers, tree sap, or will feed on the sugars in rotting fruits. So don’t be concerned, like I was, for the rotting fruit around the exhibit. It is actually one of their favorite treats!
I enjoyed looking for my favorite colors on the butterflies, nearly every color of the rainbow is represented. My personal favorites are the blue butterflies, known as the blue morphos, and the white & black paper kite butterfly. Searching for your favorite color really makes you look closely at the exhibit.
The first time I walked through the exhibit I just looked up at the butterflies flying around me. The second time I started to really search and admire the true beauty. Not only does this exhibit feature 24 different species of butterflies, but it also displays a beautiful collection of tropical plants. As I searched for my favorite color I saw the butterflies camouflaging themselves under the leaves. This is where I truly appreciated the vast number of butterflies and plants in the exhibit.
Here’s a bit more on the butterflies included in the exhibit (via Richmond.com)
The international party includes more than 200 butterflies on exhibit daily and highlights tropical species of butterflies from Central America, Africa, and Southeast Asia, as well as familiar and not so familiar North American species.
If you go on a cloudy or overcast day the butterflies tend to roost. Roosting behavior, which was a new term that I learned at the exhibit, refers to butterflies being inactive. They will hide under leaves to camouflage themselves as protection from attacks from birds and other predators. On sunny days they are the most active in the morning and early afternoon.
I sweat under the Virginia summer sun, and so my word of advice is to go to Butterflies LIVE! in the morning because butterflies love humidity! The Conservatory’s North Wing is kept at 80 degrees and 80 percent humidity, which is necesary so the butterflies feel like they are in their natural tropical habitat. Your imagination does not have to work hard to make you feel like you are in the middle of a rainforest in Brazil. Summer is the best time to be outdoors, making this a great activity for adults and kids ranging from all ages. The exhibit is open daily from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. through October 14.
On July 4th admission to the Garden, including Butterflies LIVE!, will be FREE, it’s a great chance to come visit the butterflies if you’ve never seen them. The All-American Celebration is a fun-filled day with live music, a parade, and of course Butterflies LIVE!