Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Butterfly House

The Bill Roston Butterfly House at Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park is completed and open on weekends.  The story with pictures is in the News-Leader.  The first butterfly was actually a volunteer Buckeye butterfly which flew in while they were putting on the cover and decided to stay.
  All the butterflies are native species, but we bring in chrysalis (pupa) from a Florida butterfly farm to get started.  Most days there are butterflies emerging, a mixture of Red Admiral, Gulf Fritillary, Giant Swallowtail, Painted Ladies and Monarchs.
Pictured is a Giant Swallowtail Caterpillar, photographed in the house by Linda Kittle.  It which is just about to pupate, the last step in the miracle of metamorphosis into a beautiful butterfly.  In her words, "he has himself all harnessed up to a citrus tree to begin preparation for his grand finale."  How did she know that it was a male?
"I watched him for some time.  He made several trips around and around the top of the plant pot before finally climbed up to the location where he eventually tied off.  Not once did “he” stop to ask for directions."
This caterpillar is remarkable in its resemblance to a bird dropping.  This protective coloration tends to dissuade all but the most ravenous predator.  A caterpillar is essentially the "eat and grow" phase of butterfly metamorphosis.  Since it doesn't have to find a seduce a mate or reproduce, its appearance has no drawback to its lifestyle. 
We are now bringing in butterflies captured "in the wild" for the Butterfly House.  Bull Creek specimens included Gray Hairstreaks, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Wood Nymphs, Silver Spotted Skippers, a great Spangled Fritillary and lots of Pipevine Swallowtails.
The Butterfly House will be open 10AM-6PM on weekends with weekday evenings planned this summer.  Bring a camera and, if possible, a child to fully experience the wonders.

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