Butterfly Diary 2016, Week 7

She also said she thought she had found a mating pair, and she had – these blue morphos. They’re by the outward-sloping metal walls of the conservatory and the netting inside them.
A blue longwing, notable for its iridescence, and a zebra longwing feed on orange zinnias.
A blue longwing, notable for its iridescence, and a zebra longwing feed on orange zinnias.
These yellow marigolds attracted painted lady butterflies.
These yellow marigolds attracted painted lady butterflies.

This was my last week tending baby butterflies in 2016, as Dow Gardens’ Butterflies in Bloom is nearly over. The varieties we have only live a few weeks, so when the exhibit ends, the conservatory is closed to visitors while all our insect friends finish out their short but happy lives.

A couple of small postman butterflies hang out with a zebra longwing.
A couple of small postman butterflies hang out with a zebra longwing.
The vestibule, with warning signs and a long-handled net
The three signs on the door all say essentially the same thing: wait for the attendant because the inner and outer doors may not be open at the same time. The net gets occasional use when butterflies escape into the vestibule and must be retrieved and returned.

The “rules” posted in the vestibule – Elly Maxwell, our entomologist, prefers to limit the rules as much as possible – include

  • Please keep fingers out of food dishes!
  • Watch your feet! Be aware of butterflies on the floor.
  • Please don’t pick the flowers.
  • Watch out for hitchhikers!
  • No outside plant material in the display.
These may be the most retro restroom signs I’ve seen.
These may be the most retro restroom signs I’ve seen.

I brought my lovely daughter Heather, who proved adept at finding hidden butterflies – the camouflaged Southern white covered in mist from a fan below, and the Mexican bluewing hiding deep within a plant but still in a sunny spot, below that.

Southern white butterfly

Mexican bluewing butterfly

(As a child, she was our “finder” when objects went missing. The Southern white butterfly eventually concerned her enough that she asked me to check on it, so I moved it to a sunny and dry spot, and it took off immediately.)

This butterfly is also blue and the same size, but it is a bluewave. While the Mexican blue is blue with white stripes, the bluewave is black with blue stripes.
This butterfly is also blue and the same size, but it is a bluewave. While the Mexican blue is blue with white stripes, the bluewave is black with blue stripes.
She also said she thought she had found a mating pair, and she had – these blue morphos. They’re by the outward-sloping metal walls of the conservatory and the netting inside them.
She also said she thought she had found a mating pair, and she had – these blue morphos. They’re by the outward-sloping metal walls of the conservatory and the netting inside them.
I told her I was hoping to get a blue morpho open (me and so many other people) so she kept an eye out for me. This one in the orchid room was a tease.
I told her I was hoping to get a blue morpho open (me and so many other people) so she kept an eye out for me. This one in the orchid room was a tease.

We didn’t plan to have moths this year and so our moth case isn’t out in the exhibit. Moths lay eggs quickly so we don’t want them out in the conservatory and always keep them separate. But a supplier sent us some luna moth cocoons so we dealt with it. Elly is collecting the moths for possible use in a pinned collection she is creating.

A recently emerged luna moth next to a row of cocoons.
A recently emerged luna moth next to a row of cocoons.
This arched-wing cattleheart emerged about 15 minutes before I took the picture. Note how fat the body is, with waste fluid yet to be expelled, and that the wings have not fully unfolded, let alone begun to dry. This butterfly takes 2-3 hours to be ready to leave the emergence case.
This arched-wing cattleheart emerged about 15 minutes before I took the picture. Note how fat the body is, with waste fluid yet to be expelled, and that the wings have not fully unfolded, let alone begun to dry. This butterfly takes 2-3 hours to be ready to leave the emergence case.
A blue morpho ready for release, clinging momentarily to the inside of the emergence case door.
A blue morpho ready for release, clinging momentarily to the inside of the emergence case door.
The brilliant blue topside of a blue morpho's wings
Gotcha! Or at least enough to show why these are among visitor favorites.
DG041216julia
An orange Julia sunning itself.
This plant was a popular perch for zebra longwings.
This plant was a popular perch for zebra longwings.
Advertisements

Butterfly Diary 2016, Week 6

Gray cracker butterfly
Trio of butterflies on pink zinnias
This trio enjoying the pink zinnias brought in for the butterflies includes a monarch, orange Julia and buckeye.

A sunny day made occupants and visitors alike happy at Dow Gardens’ Butterflies in Bloom.

One of the questions I was asked most often Tuesday was, as one child put it, “Why are you putting water on the floor?” With sun pouring through the glass, I had to do this about every hour, more often than usual.

Using a hose to fill two watering cans

I tell people that many of our butterflies come from jungle and rain forest environments, and while we can’t bring in all of their native plants, we replicate their humidity and temperature the best we can.

Five butterflies sunning on orange zinnias
The sun and orange zinnias combined to make this a popular spot.

Some butterfly nicknames make sense, some less so. Crackers get their name because the males make a “cracking” sound when being territorial. The two below are a gray cracker, which is gray, and a red cracker, which is blue.

Gray cracker butterfly

Red cracker butterfly

Two butterflies, including a blue morpho, eat bananas

The butterfly on the right above is a blue morpho. You can just barely see the blue topside at the wing opening. If you’re wondering why I didn’t just wait for it to open, you clearly are not one of the people who has waited 20 minutes or longer for this to happen.

Butterfly Diary 2016, Week 5

Inside the conservatory, which is filled with tropical plants year round and has a glass ceiling and walls
Inside the conservatory, which is filled with tropical plants year round and has a glass ceiling and walls
This was a great day for butterfly flight, because they tend to be more active when the sun is shining. The pond is straight ahead; the emergence case is just around the bend to the right.

This is perhaps the zooiest week at Dow Gardens’ Butterflies in Bloom … spring break. We had loads of babies in arms inside the conservatory and strollers parked outside.

There wasn’t time for much picture taking but I did answer a LOT of questions, mostly of the “What kind is that?” variety. With a lot of emergence in the case there were ample opportunities to observe brand-new butterflies, and when one came out halfway but got stuck, I unpinned it from the shelf, brought it around for people to see and as quickly as I could move gently, removed the rest of the chrysalis to free its wings. “It’s like separating layers of wet tissue paper,” I told the handful of people watching, before moving the baby back into the case.

While the wings attract the most attention, I find it interesting how much difference there is in the coloration of the bodies. There is even variety in the eyes, with some solid black while others are spotted.

Four butterflies sharing a food dish
Among the butterflies on this food dish are a zebra longwing, front, and a paper kite, hanging off the side. The former’s body looks black with white markings, the other white with black.
A green banded peacock butterfly on a tree
Toward the left you can see the edge of this green banded peacock’s left wing, and the brilliant color it sports on its top side. Look toward the right and you can see that its body matches.
Frog and blue morpho butterfly next to each other in a pond
This is one of the resident pond frogs. There are two, a male and a female, and they are maybe a decade old. And next to it is a blue morpho, looking pretty oblivious and stupid. Maybe the butterfly was just too big, because the frog ignored it. When one around swallowtail size started to light, though, the frog leapt into action, and both butterflies flitted away.

Butterfly Diary 2016, Week 4

We had giant owls already, but now we have magnificent owls as well. They are slightly smaller but also differ by the yellow band on the wing.
Paper kite and buckeye butterflies on yellow marigolds
Today we had the largest paper kite any of us present had seen. Toward the upper left corner is a buckeye.
Butterfly on camera equipment
When I first came in for my Butterflies in Bloom shift at Dow Gardens, there were several photographers set up in the conservatory. While one of them was focused on another butterfly, this one settled on his remaining equipment.
Gold banded forester butterfly on a yellow marigold
The object of their attention was this gold banded forester.
Orangetip butterfly
This great orange tip was content to sit on the emergence case for a while. Down below are some of our laminated ID sheets, which show some of our more common varieties. Once we topped 140, we gave up on listing them all because the photos would have been tiny.
Black and yellowish green butterfly with brown, white and pink tones on underside of wing
This is one of my favorites, because it is so different on the two sides of the wings. While the top is black with a greenish yellow, the underside has tones of brown, white, green and sometimes pink.
This was a crasher, a blue butterfly that fell as soon as it emerged. I scooped it up and moved it to a less crowded spot. Within minutes it had opened its wings fully and was well on the way to growing strong.
This was a crasher, a blue butterfly that fell as soon as it emerged. I scooped it up and moved it to a less crowded spot. Within minutes it had opened its wings fully and was well on the way to growing strong.

 

We had giant owls already, but now we have magnificent owls as well. They are slightly smaller but also differ by the yellow band on the wing.
We had giant owls already, but now we have magnificent owls as well. They are slightly smaller but also differ by the yellow band on the wing.
This blue morpho and two giant owls were deeply camped on this food dish. This was the first time I saw butterflies act territorial; many smaller ones got pushed firmly away by an owl’s leg.
This blue morpho and two giant owls were deeply camped on this food dish. This was the first time I saw butterflies act territorial; many smaller ones got pushed firmly away by an owl’s leg.
Emergence case full of varied chrysalises and recently emerged butterflies
Can you tell it was a busy day for emergence?
Atala butterfly
This atala hairstreak butterfly is perhaps our tiniest.
Clearwing butterfly on a yellow marigold
Just a little larger is this Costa Rican clearwing (yes, cleverly named).

Butterfly Diary 2015, Week 3: Romance in the air

A scarlet Mormon resting and one that has other ideas.
The "Sisters" sculpture is one of four purchased to remain in Dow Gardens after the Zimbabwean sculptors in residence left.
The “Sisters” sculpture is one of four purchased to remain in Dow Gardens after the Zimbabwean sculptors in residence left.

Week 3 of Butterflies in Bloom service began a little warmer, although someone thought the Sisters sculpture needed scarves.

Stay on the path, the squirrel says.
Stay on the path, it says.

I haven’t seen any chipmunks or deer, but a squirrel was eyeing me closely.

Inside the Conservatory, the volunteer going off shift told me that two visitors were waiting for a blue morpho to emerge … and waiting … and waiting. After I had been there half an hour, the woman wanted to leave but she was afraid it would come out as soon as they turned away.

This blue morpho became stuck while trying to emerge.
This blue morpho became stuck while trying to emerge.

I told her that at this point, the poor thing was stuck and would not be emerging any further. If a chrysalis falls from a shelf with a butterfly partially emerged, I’ll retrieve it, scrape the chrysalis away and hang the butterfly in our handy “hospital tree,” a Norfolk pine behind the emergence case. The undersides of the shelves, though, are so full and busy that I won’t interfere there.

The Norfolk pine where we hang butterflies that need more time to dry. I try to put them high enough that if they fall, they still will be visible so they can be rescued again.
The Norfolk pine where we hang butterflies that need more time to dry. I try to put them high enough that if they fall, they still will be visible so they can be rescued again.

Speaking of the Norfolk pine, it got a lot of new residents while I was there. How many can you spot?

A monarch. If I had to guess one butterfly that would be on this tree, it would be a monarch.
A monarch. If I had to guess one butterfly that would be on this tree, it would be a monarch.

Here’s one of them, a monarch. I call them “beautiful and stupid” because they are notorious for crashing and needing rescue.

I have no idea what this plant is. I'd like one, though.
I have no idea what this plant is. I’d like one, though.

The Conservatory, by the way, is full of fabulous tropical plants. I wish they were labeled like the ones in the rest of Dow Gardens and plan to ask why they aren’t. I’d be happy to help tag.

Two Julias and a great Southern white eat together.
Two Julias and a great Southern white eat together.

So far the butterflies have been relatively unmolested in the food dishes. I’ve had a few children try to coax them onto fingers while they were feeding on flowers, and I point out that just like you don’t bother dogs when they’re eating, you should let the butterflies finish their meals.

A scarlet Mormon resting and one that has other ideas.
A scarlet Mormon resting and one that has other ideas.

I also saw signs of mating behavior for the first time this week. The scarlet Mormon above was in the tree for a reason and needed more recovery time, so I was annoyed when another butterfly came around with other things on its tiny little mind. But their lives are short, so hey. There also was a pair of Julias mating, with another butterfly on deck, so to speak; we do see trios close together sometimes.

Butterfly Diary 2015, Week 2: Lots of new friends

Sticking close to "home."
Resting above eye level.
Resting above eye level.

As opposed to the first week, when the bitter cold outdoors made it difficult to keep the humidity in the Conservatory high enough, there were lots of new butterflies emerging, perhaps a dozen just in the two hours I was there.

One of Dow Gardens' iconic red bridges.
One of Dow Gardens’ iconic red bridges.

That doesn’t mean the cold has passed. Far from it as you can see above, with snow surrounding the red bridge that leads to the exhibit. (Dow Gardens also has a fully barrier-free streamside path that leads to Butterflies in Bloom, but I alternate routes.)

Sticking close to "home."
Sticking close to “home.”

Sometimes even when butterflies are quite strong, they don’t go far after being released from the emergence case. This one decided that chilling on the case’s back door was just fine.

Noms. A blue morpho butterfly eating rotting kiwi.
Noms.

We had several blue morphos emerge, which made me happy because they are a visitor favorite. They are our largest butterfly; one is pictured above on a delicacy, rotting kiwi. When it opens its wings, the “top” sides are a beautiful blue.

A swallowtail butterfly taking a little recovery time.
Taking a little recovery time. (There are three other, blurry, partial butterflies in this shot: buckeyes at the bottom and at the right, and a blue morpho just off the “tail” of the swallowtail.)

Some species take longer than others to be dry and strong. Swallowtails, like the one above on the Nordic pine in the nursery area, sometimes shake as if they are chilly. Monarchs are notorious for crashing and needing quick rescue, and the blue morphos are so large that they make take half a day before they are ready for release, while some small species are vigorously flying about inside the case in two hours or less.

Got questions? Ask!

Dow Gardens in winter has more than butterflies

While I’ve been volunteering at Dow Gardens’ Butterflies in Bloom, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to take photos.

butterfly

Certainly there are lots of butterflies. One of the most popular is the blue morpho, which looks like this open:

morpho1

Sometimes they’re hard to spot when they’re closed, because the underside of their wings looks very different:

morpho2

We also had African moonwing moths this week:

moth

The gardens look very different in the winter-almost-spring, with ice formations on the waterfall.

waterfall

In case you haven’t been to the gardens, one of their most recognizable features is the “red steps,” which are very Alden B. Dow-like in design.

redsteps

This is the view of the inside of the conservatory from the “office” within.

officeview

This is the center of the conservatory, with permanent artwork hanging above.

center

The center also is home to a pair of frogs (this is the male) who are at least 7 years old.

frog

The noisiest residents are the canaries, but there also is a lone Chinese quail.

birds

Art exhibits periodically grace the gardens. This work by Victoria Billingham is one of three in the conservatory, and there are more throughout the gardens.

vase

In one of the side rooms of the conservatory there are a number of bonsai, including this olive tree.

olive

In the room opposite, there are orchids.

yelloworchid

purpleorchid