By Ryan Hammes, Horticulturist
Surround yourself with friendly pollinators and the plants they love this summer! Our first-ever interactive butterfly exhibit, Butterflies & Blooms, starts this June and features a variety of butterfly species native to Wisconsin such as the Red-Spotted Purple, Mourning Cloak, Black Swallowtail, Eastern Comma, Painted Lady, as well as other familiar natives like the Monarch.
Our selection of butterflies reflects what you would typically see unfold during a Wisconsin summer (See the types of native butterflies we have in our gallery!). Some species will be here in early June, some only in late July, and the rest of the butterflies in abundance all summer long. Even though there were a wide variety of butterflies to choose from, we narrowed our selection for this exhibit to ones that are considered low flying, “friendly” and visually impressive in order to give you the best experience possible.
Red-Spotted Purple butterflies are typically welcoming, low-flying butterflies and easier to feed with a nectar stick like the Monarch. The Black Swallowtail, Mourning Cloak and Eastern Comma are some of the first butterflies to emerge each year and can be found basking in the spring sun. The Painted Lady is one of the most familiar butterflies in the world, located on nearly every continent which makes their presence in our house a must.
On any given day, 500 or more butterflies will be fluttering around the house for your viewing pleasure and we’ll have more than 4,500 butterflies throughout the entire summer! 300 new butterflies arrive each week from Wisconsin and Florida. Given the state’s warm climate, Florida is a well-known place for raising butterflies. And while these butterflies are found in Wisconsin, we won’t release them into the wild to protect butterfly populations already living here. These butterflies are raised to give people like you the opportunity to observe and learn about them so you can support them where you live.
Our 1,800-square-foot butterfly house, which is painted to look like a Monarch caterpillar with its yellow, black and white colors, is located in the garden patch across from the Stumpf Hobbit House. In the house, you’ll see a wide variety of colorful plants, chrysalis emergence chambers and eight feeding stations filled with fruit and liquid nectar.
Beyond seeing these butterflies in action, various family-friendly drop-in activities mixing pollinators, plants and play will delight your senses:
- Feed a butterfly with a yummy nectar snack or get a closer look at these beauties when they stop for a drink at one of our many feeding stations.
- Examine the gorgeous details of butterfly wings through a microscope at the Discovery Station.
- Watch butterflies emerge from their chrysalises. Newly hatched butterflies will be released and take flight each day.
- Explore the house’s colorful indoor garden with more than 1,500 annual and tropical plants of 20 different species.
Our butterflies will be a spectacular experience for visitors of all ages! We simply ask that you gently observe the butterflies and not touch them. If one lands on you, wait for it to flutter away or ask a staff member for assistance. Grabbing a butterfly can easily damage their wings and impair their ability to fly.
Outside the butterfly house, you’ll stroll through our native pollinator garden and discover plants perfect for caterpillars, butterflies and other pollinators. You’ll also learn how you can help increase pollinator populations by making your own pollinator paradise at home.
Butterflies & Blooms starts on Saturday, June 1 and we can’t wait for you to visit and be inspired by pollinators and plants this summer!