Oct 4th, 2012

The Butterfly: A Study of the Ephemeral

Photos and text by John Laslett, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Public Relations & Marketing Intern 

Butterflies for sale at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

Butterflies are some of the most delicate creatures in the world. The butterfly, of all creatures, is most robbed of the power to destroy. Thousands may descend and produce little more than a fragile breeze,  the likes of which delights all as it breaks upon the face of babes.

This is one reason why people love butterflies, because some consider their value as purely aesthetic (although here at the Garden, we know their incredible importance as pollinators.) Chaos theory is so eloquently described by the great beating of butterfly wings because butterfly wings are not great, they are beautiful. I can tell you that, after spending time in the Butterflies LIVE! exhibit here at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

The question, though, is: what becomes of the defiantly casual air cruisers after they have lived out their lives in the Butterflies LIVE! exhibit? Once the butterflies expire of natural causes, some are mounted and available in The Garden Shop. Not only does this prolong their beauty, it provides an educational opportunity for closer study. It is our hope this inspires people to learn more about butterflies, and therefore our interdependence on them and plants, which affects us all.

Butterfly at Butterflies LIVE!

Because many species are not native to this area, there are strict regulations governing what happens when the butterflies expire. When you buy a mounted butterfly here at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, you are buying a creature that has died of natural causes and been packaged for display.  They have been frozen (following USDA regulations) and mounted in a box. It may seem slightly macabre to buy the expired brethren of the creature you just saw joyously wafting around the exhibit, but rest assured, these butterflies lived longer-than-normal lives safe from predators and died of natural causes.  I bought three of the displays. They are unapologetically beautiful.  I wish I looked that good now, much less when I am older.

And what will happen to the butterflies still alive at the end of Butterflies LIVE! on Oct. 14? They will take a trip to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History where they will live out their ephemeral lives in the butterfly exhibit there.

About John Laslett

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