Butterflies Fluttering About

In early March, I visited the Desert Botanical Garden (DBG) to see the Open Air Native Butterfly Exhibit. The only caveat was that it was 52ºF (11ºC) and butterflies don’t fly unless it’s 60ºF (15ºC) or warmer. As disappointing as that was, there was still much to see, learn about, and enjoy. And fortunately, there were a few rogue butterflies fluttering about even in the cooler desert weather.

Indigenous Plants

So, what to do when butterflies aren’t fluttering about? First, I explored the many native plants and flowers that attract and feed the butterflies. There are large plants like the Ponytail Palm and the many Orchid Trees, part of the Bauhinia genus. There are also many other smaller plants that attract the native butterflies, and below are a few of them.

Butterflies Fluttering About | Indigenous Plants

The Caterpillar Nursery & Emergence Chamber

After exploring the various native plants, there is the glass enclosed area where they have the chrysalises (pupas) ready to hatch. One actually hatched while I was there! Alas, I did not actually get to see it as I was looking at the shiny penny: an actual butterfly fluttering about. Once I realized that there where ooh’s and aah’s were coming from the nursery, I went to find out what had occurred. The Orange-barred Sulphur hatched.

Butterflies Fluttering About | Caterpillar Nursery

This hatching area can be viewed through glass inside the exhibit. Only those who work directly with the butterflies at the botanical garden have access to this area. What I found most delightful to learn about, and wish I had the opportunity to see, were the “nannies” who come at the end of the day. When they arrive, they very carefully capture the newly hatched butterflies and release them into the world/exhibit.

Watch Your Step

The only drawback of the open air butterfly exhibit, besides cooler weather, is that sometimes the butterflies land on the walkway, which was of great concern to me. Fortunately, there are heroes in the making: the docents, who are incredibly knowledgeable. Also, they are armed with a special fuzzy duster-like tool to carefully save the butterflies from harm. When a butterfly is in harms way, the docent gently encourages the butterfly to cling onto the tool. Once the butterfly attaches itself, the docent ever so gently helps it to safety by placing it on one of the many plants in the exhibit.

Different Types of Exhibits

The DBG is an open air exhibit, which means the exhibit is contained with a very fine and sturdy mesh structure. The open air is best suited for native butterflies. The DBG works with local butterfly farmers to stock them (I know…who knew there were butterfly farmers?!). There are also glass enclosed butterfly exhibits like the one I previously experienced at the Tucson Botanical Garden. This type of exhibit is enclosed in glass to create the warm and humid atmosphere needed for topical butterflies and plants.

Butterflies Fluttering Around | Exhibit Types

Butterfly Exhibits

It’s quite magical to go to a butterfly exhibit. Below are a few of the places that have such exhibits. Some are open seasonally and others are open year round, so you’ll want to check before going to make sure that it’s 60ºF (15ºC) or warmer if it’s an open air exhibit. If there isn’t one near you listed below, contact your local botanical garden or science/natural history museum for more information.

Share with me below: Where is your favorite place to experience and explore butterflies?

Pipevine Swallowtail. Photographed @ the Desert Botanical Garden.

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