Jun 29th, 2012

Escape Into the Tropics this Summer at Butterflies LIVE!

by Kristen Wolenberg,  Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Public Relations & Marketing Intern

Paper kite butterfly, Photo by Garrett McLees

Paper kite butterfly, Photo by Garrett McLees

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.

A Blue Morpho Butterfly

A Blue Morpho Butterfly, one of my favorites!

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!

Kristen Wolenberg is a former PR & Marketing Intern.

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  • This is a great blog post! I hope to get to the exhibit in the near future. Nice to know I’ll see some exotics there!

    I used to volunteer at the Hershey Gardens butterfly house, and I remember all too well how the butterflies love to bask right on the brick walkways. The funny thing was that it wasn’t small kids I had to remind to watch their step… but adult photographers so focused on getting a perfect shot that they weren’t watching below their feet!! 🙂

    I can see how it might be unexpected to see dishes of rotting fruit around for the butterflies- if folks didn’t know better, they may wonder why the poor things aren’t being provided with fresh fruit at least! I recently started leaving old fruit for them in my garden, too.

    • That’s a good point Samantha. We can all get carried away trying to get a great photo. I hadn’t thought of leaving rotting fruit for them in my own garden. I’ll have to try it!

  • Grant Howell

    Great post Kristen!
    FYI: we have released over 85 different species into the exhibit thus far.
    Also, be aware that most of these are tropical species that are used to encountering rotting fruit on the forest floor. I would caution anyone who leaves rotting fruit in their yard (in the North America) to attract butterflies to reconsider. You may be more successful attracting critters or ants.