Thursday, April 10, 2014

Butterflies - Come out of your chrysalid!

For those of you that are of a certain age and from the UK, I hasten to say that this blog is not a sickly reminiscence of the 70's sitcom with Wendy Craig and Geoffrey Palmer but about real live butterflies! Curious creatures - as gardeners, we love the colourful motion of butterflies, visiting our garden flowers but equally hate it when their caterpillar offspring munch their way through flowers and foliage of our prized specimens!

After the Japanese garden, described in the last post,  we moved on to the Museum of Natural Sciences and purchased a couple of tickets for the Rainforest Conservatory.  This is a three storey glass structure built around a 50ft waterfall and filled with exotic plants  and hundreds of butterflies. We started at the top and were fascinated to watch butterflies emerging from their chrysalids in large environmentally controlled glass cases.  As we watched, a staff member opened the cases from behind and carefully removed the hatched butterflies - beautiful, colorful creatures with gently unfurling wings. I commented that he looked bored!

Moving into the glass atrium itself, we were surrounded by tropical foliage and the air alive with delicate floating butterflies. As we gazed around we were joined by the man from inside the glass incubator, carrying a huge muslin basket full of the newly hatched butterflies. 'Here you can help me', he says. For the next ten minutes we helped release all the new butterflies into their new home. No-one else appeared, so we had the joy of this experience just to ourselves! And he wasn't bored or boring but told us fascinating facts about the butterflies he tends as a volunteer.

We then descended into the 'rainforest', with so much to see - both plants and butterflies! We learned that the butterflies are fed on various sugar preparations and also fruit. The museum has a license to keep the butterflies which are shipped in as chrysalids but not to actually breed them. For this reason, the plants do not include the butterfly host plants, so eggs are not laid.

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