Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Flying Flowers grace the Conservatory

We have imported nearly 2,000 butterflies from Florida, Texas and Costa Rica for our annual Festival of Butterflies. The conservatory is filled with their favorite nectar plants and set with high humidity to mimic the climate of subtropical Florida & Texas as well as the tropical rain forest of Costa Rica. Five hundred butterflies are in flight at any given time from now through Sunday, August 17. A wonderful array of interpretive and fun activities greatly enhance the experience of a visit during the Festival of Butterflies this Friday (Aug. 15) - Sunday (Aug. 17). The butterflies will remain on public display in the conservatory after the Festival of Butterflies for limited hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) from Monday August 18, through Sunday, August 24.

The Erato Heliconian imported from the Rio Grande Valley of Texas is even a rare sight in the wild there. It is a perennial favorite butterfly in the conservatory and often nectars on the bright orange blooms of Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) depicted.

An Erato Heliconian with its wings closed, just finished sipping nectar from the Mexican Sunflower.


Blue Morpho (Morpho peleides) is the star attraction in the conservatory. This is a female sunning herself on the floor. Morphos usually land with their wings closed. Their bright iridescent blue wings, buoyant flight and friendly behavior (often landing on visitors' shirts or hats) make them the favorite butterfly in the conservatory.

The male Blue Morpho has more evenly blue wings. All our morphos were imported as chrysalises from Costa Rica, under permits obtained through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They are farm raised and purchased from two cooperatives that help locals earn income and thus protect their rain forest.
A Blue Morpho with its wings closed looks like an entirely different butterfly! We think the unique eye spotting and patterns are still beautiful. Morphos do not nectar on flowers so we provide them with a wonderful concoction "sugar bait." The recipe can be found in the Butterflies and Moths of Missouri book by J. Richard and Joan E. Heitzman and consists of dark brown sugar, molasses and over-ripe bananas.
Be sure and check out the brand new butterfly book (hot off the press): A Photographic Field Guide to the Butterflies of the Kansas City Region by Betsy Betros. The book is available in our Gift Shop and Betsy will be on hand Saturday and Sunday during the festival to sign the book!
There are about 25 species of butterflies on display in the conservatory so come out and see them for a guaranteed close encounter.

2 comments:

Greg Zenitsky said...

Just had an idea for next year's Butterfly exhibition...how about a "butterfly cam" that can be accessed through your website? Just a thought!

Powell Gardens said...

We'll have to look into that. Thanks for your thoughts!