As a kid, we all have tried to catch these two-winged creatures hopping from one flower to another. No matter how hard we tried, they remained elusive and we never get to see them up close. Thanks to the butterfly houses or conservatories, it has become possible for nature lovers to see them in all their glory. And good news is there are so many of them. Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre, Siem Reap is the largest enclosed butterfly house in Southeast Asia.
Germany has two of them namely Alaris Schmetterlingspark in Sassnitz, Rügen and Schmetterlingshaus in Mainau, Baden Württemberg. Collodi Butterfly House, Butterfly Arc and Bordano Butterfly House are in Italy. Magic of Life Butterfly House, Golders Hill Park and London Butterfly House are in the United Kingdom. Canada has six of them which are Montreal Insectarium, Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory, Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory, Victoria Butterfly Gardens, Newfoundland Insectarium and Butterflies & Blooms. The United States have so many of them such as Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory, Magic Wings Butterfly House, Orange County Native Butterfly House, Puelicher Butterfly Wing, Tropical Butterfly House, Sertoma Butterfly House, Panhandle Butterfly House, The Montgomery Zoo, Marshall Butterfly Pavilion and many more. New Zealand has Otago Museum Discovery World Tropical Forest while Australia boasts of three butterfly conservatories which are Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, Coffs Harbour Butterfly House, Coffs Harbour and Melbourne Zoo butterfly enclosure.
Back home in India, we have Butterfly Conservatory of Goa, Butterfly Park, Bannerghatta National Park, Bangalore, and Butterfly safari Park, Thenmala, Kerala.
What is a butterfly house?
Butterflies are insects, (yes, I know it is difficult to refer them as one, given how different and beautiful they are from other seemingly terrifying creatures you see on a daily basis), and butterfly houses are the places or facilities where they are kept and bred for educational purposes and display. These are open for public and occasionally, you can find other insects and arthropods as well, living in the natural habitat. Usually, such projects are funded by companies, non-profit corporations, museums, universities or could be a self-funded project by nature enthusiasts.
The trend of butterfly parks isn’t new. In fact, such exhibits of butterflies were extremely popular in England by the year 1970. Penang Butterfly Farm in Malaysia was inaugurated on March 29, 1986, which was tropical world’s first insect and live butterfly sanctuary. United States had its first butterfly park, Butterfly World, opened for public viewing in Coconut Creek, Florida in the year 1988.
What can we see in a butterfly house?
Butterfly houses can be considered as greenhouses that provide favorable atmosphere to butterflies to grow, nurture and develop. You can take a walk down as these houses are open to public viewing generally. You can hire a guide or choose to take a stroll at your leisure. Like a wild safari, you need to spot the butterflies and it all depends on the luck. It is always better to hire a guide, because a guide can help you to identify eggs, caterpillars, pupa and species of a butterfly, which otherwise to a layman look all the same. 10am to 1pm is the best time to visit a butterfly park as you can spot butterflies coming out from the pupa. Moreover, as the heat increases, butterflies prefer to take shade in the flowers and leaves. Butterflies prefer sunny days with little hint of wind. Rainy days and too much heat don’t go well down with them. They need sun and its warmth for better digestion.
Butterfly houses also import butterflies from all over the world. Hence, here you can find butterflies that usually belong to the Philippines, Thailand, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Africa and the rest of world.
Let’s know more about butterflies:
- Out of 1,500,000 insect species, 200,000 species are of Lepidoptera that is moth and butterflies. Butterflies make 17, 050 of these species while rest of them are moths. India has about 1501 butterfly species.
- Butterfly can live up to 40 days during which they go through metamorphosis. Metamorphosis has actually been termed as one of the most intriguing natural phenomena in which an egg transform into a larvae, cocoon and later on emerges as a butterfly, which is nothing like a larvae or cocoon.
- Four stages of metamorphosis:
- Egg: A female butterfly lays egg on specific plants. The eggs are laid on the innermost leaves of plants so that when caterpillars come out of the eggs, they have leaves to eat and they remain protected from ants and other insects.
- Larva or caterpillar: Once larvas are out of egg, they start eating leaves at a rapid speed. They spend most of their time eating.
- Pupa or Cocoon: Once the eating phase is over, the caterpillar forms a protective shield around it, which is called a cocoon. This phase, perhaps, the most enchanting phase of nature that has the capacity to bow down even the most atheist person because this simply is one of the most magnanimous incident one can witness and the one, which is beyond any human and science. This stage is also called chrysalis.
- Butterfly: Once this magical transformation is completed, the butterfly breaks the cocoon and emerges out, only to find the amazing and colorful world of flowers.
This cycle then starts all over again.
- Butterflies are also called flying flowers.
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed more than 20 species of butterflies and moths as endangered. This happened due to the destruction of natural species. Some of them are: Karner Blue Butterfly, Mitchell's Satyr Butterfly, Palos Verdes Blue Butterfly, Miami Blue Butterfly and Wolkberg Zulu Butterfly.
- Usually, the life of butterflies span over two weeks and this is also the time when they start their reproductive cycle too. Monarch butterflies, however goes on to love for six months and in the wild, they can live up to eight months as well. Same goes for Mourning Cloaks and Tropical Heliconians that can survive for more than nine months.
- Queen Alexandra's Birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae) is the largest butterfly in the world with the wingspan of 30cm. It is found in the New Guinea’s rainforests.
- The smallest butterfly in the world is Western Pygmy-Blue (Brephidium exilis) and its wing span is just 10-19mm. It is found in South America, Mexico, Nebraska, South-Western U.S. and East Oregon.
- Flutter is the name given to a group of Butterflies.
- Butterflies don’t have a hearing sense whereas their smelling powers are extraordinary. They can sense vibrantion though. They can smell with the tiny receptors which are located on abdomen, feet and antennas.
- Since flowers have ultraviolet colors, they can see colors which are otherwise invisible to our eyes.
- Entomologists who study butterflies are called Lepidopterists.
- Butterflies are found everywhere. From marshes to deserts, from grasslands to forests and mountains. However, they can’t survive the temperature above 1,800 feet but they are found in Arctic too. As long as there are flowers and plants, they can adapt to the conditions to survive and emerge to keep their species alive and kicking.
- Butterflies suck nectar through straw-shaped proboscis, which when not in used, gets curled up close to their mouth. Apart from nectar, butterflies get their nutrition from mud, rotting fruits, dung or even mineral rocks.
- Most of time, it is really difficult to distinguish between male and female species. Some of the tell tale signs of male butterflies are smaller size, brighter colored wings, clasps on the abodmen and sometimes the presence of scent glands on the wings. Since female butterflies carry eggs, they are bigger in size. However, all that is difficult to tell from a glance. Once you have seen them up and close for a while, you can easily identify that how female butterflies are laying eggs while the males are sucking nectar, chasing the females for the reproduction cycle and marking their territory!
- One of the most intriguing facts about butterflies are the migration. Like some birds and animals, butterflies also migrate to long distances. In fact, the Monarch butterfly travel twich every year and cover about 3,000 miles but their migration is different from other birds and animals that it is not the same generation that come to the place of origin. Butterflies can only live for six to nine months, which is the maximum time for their generation. Hence, the parent generation, which originally flew and migrated is perished and it is always the offsprings and next generations that come and visit the origin place of their ancestors. Why? How? This mystery remains unsolved like the many other riddles of nature.
- Under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, 450 and Biodiversity Act of 2002, butterfly species have been listed. Schedule I has 128 species, Schedule II has 303 species and 19 species are listed as well as given protection under Schedule IV.
- Many countries around the world have adopted butterfly farming as a viable mean to earn money.
- The Bombay Natural History Society in Mumbai is one of the largest NGOs to work on conservation and biodiversity research. The society was founded on September 15, 1883. The museum at society flaunts of the mammoth collecton of over 25,000 species of butterflies. It also organizes programs such as Butterfly watch camps and Breakfast with Butterflies to promote awareness in masses. It also conducts basic distance courses in entomology.
Butterfly Parks of India
Butterfly parks in India give the nature lovers a reason to rejoice! A treat to watch, this trend in India has yet to be a rage but even though, people and kids are quite getting used to the idea of being close to the nature in some way or other. And after all, who doesn’t like to see colorful and flying wings, fluttering on colorful flowers in garden and parks.
Due to habitat destruction, butterflies all over the world have suffered from extensive damage. Some of the species are listed as an endangered species. Urbanistation is also one of the reasons that we don’t see butterflies as often as our forefathers or parents used to see because we have destroyed trees, parks and gardens, in fact spaces where they could make a home, nurture and flutter.
Butterfly houses and parks contribute their bit to provide natural habitat where they can conserve and breed whereas enthusiasts can visit the place and researchers can research on the butterflies.
- India’s First Butterfly Park in Bangalore:
India’s first butterfly park was opened in Bangalore on November 25, 2006. The idea behind the park was to promote butterfly ecotourism. At the cost of Rs. 50 millions, the park spans over 7.5 acres and is home to over 20 species of butterflies. The 10,000 square feet conservatory is covered with polycarbonate roof where the butterflies can be found. It is located near the Bannerghatta zoo in Bangalore. The park also has a museum where one can understand about the lifestyle stages of a butterfly and its metamorphis from an egg to a butterfly. You can also find some information on the smallest of the butterfly, Eastern Pygmy Blue and largest one as well. The theatre is also a main attraction of the park and here you can watch a 20-minute movie on butterflies and how you can contribute to their conservation. The artifical waterfall in the park is also one of the prime attractions.
- India’s Second Butterfly Park in Shimla:
The second butterfly park of India was opened in Shimla. Spanning over an area of 10 acres, a whopping 60 millions was invested in it. Now, this park hosts more than 330 species of butterflies. 14 out of which were found in the cold deserts of Spiti and Lahaul. The park also has a museum and conservatory.
- Butterfly Park, Pune
It was dedicated to public and was inaugurated by Dimple Kapadia on the International Women’s Day, March 8, 2011. An estimated cost of 50 million, which was funded by the Pune Municipal Corporation, transformed a dirty drainage into this beautiful butterfly conservatory. The park spans over 2 acres and is home to 80 butterfly species. Along with this, you can take a stroll to rock garden and along side the waterfall. If you are living in Pune, you can also choose the park for jogging. Its jogging tracks are state-of-the-art and perfect, if you want to get away from the chaos for a while and stay close to the nature as well.
- Butterfly Park, Chandigarh
The butterfly park in Chandigarh was inaugurated on May 23, 2011 in sector 26. The park is situated at the Commonwealth Youth Programme Asia Centre. The estimated cost to start this project is about 70 lakh. It covers a sprawling area of 7.5 acres.
- Butterfly Park, Sikkim
Sikkim has the credit to open India’s first open-air butterfly park. It covers an area of 14 acres and 60 millions were invested in the opening of park. So, you can experience a natural eco-system at work.
- Butterfly Conservatory of Goa, Goa
In this chapter, Mystic Meadows Conservatory is the first project, which is situated in Ponda, the Spice and Temple town of Goa. It covers 4,000 square metre and resembles a tropical forest. The endemic plants everywhere give a very pleasant feel to the ambience. What’s most fascinating about the park is that this place didn’t have any natural source of water and was barren once. And now, this place is a lush green park and home to more than 133 butterfly species. In fact, you can spot at least 24 species of butterflty any given day. The rainwater supply, which is stored and the garden on the roof are the prime attractions and tell us what wonders can be done once we decide to do our bit for the nature. Dr. Jyoti and Yashodan Heblekar, the couple behind the idea of this butterfly park, see it as a habitat for the butterflies and according to them, they didn’t have any plans and they just improvised as and when an idea came into their mind.
It is all experience that comes with time and working in the real field, they say! In the beginning, the couple only expected 25 species of butterflies, which has gone up to 133 species now! Quite a feat, don’t you think so?
- Ovalekar Butterfly Farm, Wadi, Thane
It is a private butterfly park and was started by Rajendra Ovalekar. It was his personal land at Ovalekar Wadi, spanning over 2 acres, which is now home to 100 different butterfly species. The best part is Ovalekar himself is the guide here and will make sure you spend some amazing moment here in the presence of amazing flowers, butterflies and away from the chaos of the city.
- Making a Butterfly Park of your Own:
You can start a buttefly park of your own! While you and your family can enjoy closeness to nature, you can do your bit to promote butterfly ecotourism and awareness regarding their conservation. The first thing you would like to do is to design a butterfly garden. For this, you will need to know more about native butterfly species to understand more adaptable and “easy” species. You would also like to know about the kind of flowers and plants that they would feed and lay their eggs on.
However, just be clear that you don’t have to have a sparawling acres of land for this. Your backyard, balcony and garden is enough to host butterflies during every season.
If you don’t want to go the ‘readymade butterfly kits available in the market’ way, you need to have three types of plants and flowers in your garden. One, where the female butterflies will lay their eggs on. These plants are also called butterfly host plants. Second, the larvas would eat and third, the nectar they will feed themselves on.
Always remember that butterfly gardening by area should be the keyword to increase the chances of survival of butterflies. You would need an estimate of space as well because you need to know how much the plants grow and their length. You can’t grow them too congested because it will ultimately lead to the growth of unwanted insects and moths and not butterflies. If you are starting it from the scratch, you need to learn the technique of sowing bulbs and plants as well.
Once you have planted caterpillars in the soil, you need to clean after them regualrly. Without disturbing them. Otherwise they can die because you are disturbing them too much or due to the feces material, which can lead to suffocation and growth of mold, both detrimental to their health. If you find the caterpillars to be lethargic, this can be due to two things. Either they are preparing for next Make sure the pupa has ample space and slot so that when it breaks and a full-fledged butterfly is relased, it can break free to immediate nectar source easily. You would also need to understand the difference between the phases of a butterfly’s life cycle to know the transition and provide better growth opportunities to them as they transform from an egg to larva and so on. So, this makes quite a research and study on your part!
You can also deck up the butterfly garden with garden decoration to attract birds and bees while keeping slots that keep the birds away and give butterflies the perfect ambience as well as protecting them from weather and wind. Once the butterflies are out from the pupa, some of them will fly away. Chances are, all of them could fly away as well, leaving you behind wondering what went wrong! But since you have provided them a natural habitat, you don’t have to get worried about the occupancy at all. Just keep the doors opened, bowl stirring and heart big!