Saturday, July 18, 2009

Butterflies Everywhere

We took a day trip yesterday to Pine Mountain, GA. The purpose for our trip was to visit Callaway Gardens Butterfly Conservatory. I've only been to Callaway once before, and this was my first time to visit their butterflies. I was very excited, maybe even more than Kira and Marisa. I have to say that the Butterfly Conservatory definitely lived up to my expectations. We spent a good bit of time wandering through the flowers and watching butterflies do the things that butterflies do. I could easily spend several hours in the conservatory if it were a bit cooler and a bit less humid. No doubt I lost several pounds just from being in the extreme humidity.

The butterfly experience would have been sufficient for our day of education. There is a field guide that can be used to identify which butterflies you are seeing. There's plates of fruit for the butterflies to nibble on, so we got to spend some time observing them while they were eating. I never knew butterflies had such long tongues! It was quite wonderful.

(This is a group of Owl Butterflies and Marisa's hand. As you can see, those butterflies are bigger than her hand. That is NOT an optical illusion.)

But I got lucky!!!

After we left the Butterfly Conservatory, we had a picnic for lunch. When we finished eating, Kira decided she needed to use the bathroom, so I took her back inside the building. I decided on the way in that we would just poke our noses into the butterfly room one last time. THIS was the best decision I made yesterday.

As we were walking back towards the butterfly room I noticed that there were people inside this little observation room area. They were sorting pupa. I tapped gently on the glass, and the guy inside brought a tray of sorted pupa over to the window for Kira to see. He even picked a few of them up so they would wiggle around. This was just so cool. We looked for a bit and then waved and thanked him. I thought that was the extent of our special treat.

HE had somethin else in mind.

He waved to me and motioned for us to come inside.


We rushed around to where the entrance was. Kira and I were admitted to the interior room where this group was sorting out the pupa and preparing to pin them up for continued development.

Let me just stop here and tell you how very COOL this was. I can not express just how grateful I am that this guy was so nice to us.

Anyways.... Kira and I got to hold several different pupa and discuss what types of butterflies would emerge. One of the guys in the room had a newly emerged butterfly sitting on his finger. The butterfly was waiting for its wings to dry - which apparently takes about 2 to 4 hours.

We talked about where the pupas come from. Apparently there are butterfly farms all over the world. The farmers harvest the pupas and sell them off to places like Callaway Gardens to replenish their butterfly population.

We talked about how they package the pupa in layers of cotten to protect them during shipping.

We talked about how tough the pupa skin is in comparison to the caterpillar and the butterfly stages.

Mostly, though, we held the different pupa and experienced just how incredibly different each species is. Some were rough and prickly. Some were smooth and shiny. Some of them looked like polished stones and were very slippery to hold. There were green pupa, and brown pupa, and shiny gold pupa. There was evena gorgeous yellow pupa - the color of a canary. That one was very shiny and smooth. That one was my favorite...

As if the pupa experience wasn't enough, when we left the room there was a Blue Morpho butterfly sitting on the ground. We both sat beside the butterfly, and when it didn't fly away I reached down and very gently scooped the creature up into my hand. It still didn't fly away....

I put that beautiful blue butterfly on Kira's arm - and there it stayed - for over ten minutes!!! She absolutely loved that butterfly and determined that the creature wanted to come home with us. (No, Kira. Really - the butterfly must stay at the Butterfly Conservatory.)

Grandma Janet called to find out why we were taking so long in the bathroom. I told her what we were up to, and she headed back inside with the rest of the gang. That lovely little butterfly let me move her from one kid to the next (including the Grandma) without even trying to fly away. She was so content to just be with us. We were blessed with her presence for another ten minutes or so, then we were ready to carry on with our day. We tried to place her on some flowers, but she didn't want to leave us. I ultimately had to pass her off to one of the guys who had been in the sorting room. He gushed about how amazing this experience was because the Blue Morpho, as he put it, NEVER DOES THIS. That species is not generally people friendly. Apparently it is nearly unheard of for the Blue Morpho to land on anybody for more than a second. When I told him how long she had been hanging out with us, he was astounded.

(Thank you, God, for giving us our own special miracle!!!)

I can't really determine who got more out of this - me or Kira. It was such a beautiful day. When Kira was being blessed with the Blue Morpho, she gazed down at that butterfly and said - with tears in her eyes - "This has been just the bestest day ever." (I almost cried myself over that one.)

I did purchase one of the interior field guides so we can learn more about the butterflies we encountered. I also purchased a local butterfly field guide so we can study about the butterflies we might find in our own back yard. Of course, there were a few frivolous purchases made, too. Marisa chose a butterfly that hangs from the ceiling. (It's almost as big as she is.) Kira chose a butterfly that grows in water and shrinks when it dries. They put those gift shops at the end for a reason...

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