Love butterflies? C’mon, who doesn’t?
Thursday is your last chance to catch the Tucson Botanical Gardens’ Butterfly Magic Exhibit before it closes for the season. At any given time, 400 butterflies are on display, said John Rhodes, curator of the exhibit. Over the seven-month duration of the exhibit, more than 200 different species of all shapes, colors and sizes have fluttered about the hothouse.
Each day, garden staff brings in the new butterflies and take out the ones that died of old age, Rhodes said.
On Friday morning, the exhibit was filled with children from the Cornerstone Christian Academy. As Rhodes stood with a visitor waiting to exit the greenhouse, one of the young students cheerfully announced, “five of them landed on my head.”
The butterflies in the garden’s exhibit come from nine suppliers who pack and ship them while the butterflies are in the chrysalis stage. Once they arrive in Tucson, they are taken to the emergence room, a climate-controlled space where they emerge from the chrysalis. Visitors who arrive early enough in the day can watch through a window as the butterflies emerge.
The butterflies are given loving care during their short lifetimes. The greenhouse is kept at a humid 85 degrees to 90 degrees.
It is filled with flowering plants that provide nectar for the butterflies. The flowers are sprayed four times a day with artificial nectar. And for those species that eschew flowers, there are small pots of puréed fruit.
If you happen to come across Rhodes, he’s happy to answer any questions you might have. Unless you ask if he has a favorite butterfly.
“It would be like asking someone who is your favorite child. They’re all my children,” he said.
A stationary, pinned exhibit might provide a closer look at butterflies, Rhodes said. But the garden’s live exhibit allows people to observe the lovely creatures as they would in nature. Visitors can watch as the butterflies feed, engage in courtship, and just do their thing.
“A lot of them, it seems like they play,” Rhodes said.
He’s seen them follow each other in what mimics a game of follow-the-leader. They seem to playfully bump each other off of leaves.
Once the butterfly exhibit closes, the remaining butterflies will be rounded up, carefully packed and shipped overnight to the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, Colo., for its final exhibit.
IF YOU GO
What: Butterfly Magic Exhibit. Visitors this Sunday also will enjoy Bugging Out, a display of live bugs from the Sonoran Desert and tropical rain forests, including tarantulas, scorpions and centipedes.
Where: Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N. Alvernon Way.
When: Through April 30, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Cost: $11 for adults and $5.50 for children ages 4-12.