It’s time for the best 8 weeks of volunteering I will spend all year: tending baby butterflies.
This is the quietest week of Butterflies in Bloom, because the exhibit isn’t open to the public yet. Friday morning it will be; get all the details at www.dowgardens.org/butterflies.
What is there to do with no visitors? The usual: check the chrysalis case for parasites, check further to see who has emerged and if anyone is in trouble, then water the floor. Seriously, because so many of the species we get are jungle and rainforest dwellers, we keep the humidity in the conservatory cranked, so in addition to running the misting fans, we water the floor, which is mostly brick.
This puppy at left (haha!) displays the humidity inside the chrysalis case, with readings updated every 15 minutes.
I release butterflies when they are flying about quite actively, practically beating the glass. How long this takes is closely tied to size. Smaller butterflies might take a couple of hours to fully extend and dry their wings, while some of our largest varieties can take half a day.
I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story, but if you have questions, by all means ask in the comments. And check back the next seven Wednesdays for more butterfly photos.
This guy bummed me out because I don’t think he’s going to make it. This is a brown clipper that got stuck emerging, so the wings were out and starting to dry, but they weren’t completely unfolded because the abdomen was stuck in the chrysalis. I watched him struggle for several minutes, wishing our fabulous entomologist would walk in and save the day, but she didn’t so I unpinned him and gently scraped away the paper-thin trap. Unfortunately, the struggle might have exhausted him, because he didn’t move much after that, although I did see him uncurling and curling his proboscis about an hour and a half later just before I left. (I’m saying “he” but truly I don’t know. Some are easier to tell than others.)
At right, this black and white butterfly resting near the conservatory walls had a silhouette effect.
Some butterflies prefer being close to the ground, like this swallowtail at right. As long as this doesn’t place them near the emergency exit, which carries a wicked breeze beneath it this time of year, near or even on pavement is fine.
Some of our butterflies are hybrids of two varieties, like this longwing at right. This is near the small pond, home to a pair of quite old frogs who have learned to love this annual exhibit.