Monday, March 17, 2014

B is for...

Beautiful Butterflies!  And, boy oh boy, were they ever!
What a special morning I spent here at Niagara's Butterfly Conservatory.
In it's 17th year of operation, this tropical paradise is home to approximately 45 different species, totaling 2,000 butterflies in a given week.
Did you know that, on average, butterflies live only 2-3 weeks?!  Of course, there are some species that live only a few days, while others (migrating monarchs) survive 6-8 months.  I didn't know that!
For feeding, butterflies use their proboscis, the straw-like tube, to suck up nectar.
When not in use, the proboscis curls up like a coil.

The two fore and two hind wings are supported by veins.  The velvety surface of the wings are actually thousands of scales, connected to create their beautiful color and pattern. 
Above and below photos are of the same specie, the Blue Morpho.
Their markings can either blend in for survival...or promote warning with bright colors.
Over half of the population in the Sanctuary are imported from Central America and Indo-Asia.
In order to prevent pests and diseases, no host plants, on which the female can lay eggs, are grown here.  To maintain the right balance, new butterflies are 'raised' in a controlled environment on premise.
Some of my favorites of the day were this green and tan beauty, the Malachite.
And this black/white Rice Paper butterfly.
The Zebra Longwing below (in the foreground) landed often on the rim of my camera...
but were always too quick!

The enclosure houses over 100 different plant materials.  Many are exotic but there's a few you might these crotons and anthurium.
This tiny guy (2-3" wingspan) is known by 5 names:  The Red Postman, the Small Postman, Red Passion Flower Butterfly, the Crimson-patched Longwing and Sara Longwing....whew!
Trays with rotted fruit provide their main source of nourishment.
And flower nectar, of course.
Though all butterflies have 6 legs, we mostly only see 4. Like in the above photo of the green Malachite.  The front two are very short and sometimes non-functional.  Another fun fact is they can taste with their feet!

This stunning Cairus Birdwing was one of the largest!
A controlled climate of 80 degrees F., with matching humidity, caused many foggy pics!  I will definitely plan another visit next time I'm crossing the border.  I hope you enjoyed this tour of the Sanctuary and I hope you'll have a chance to visit in person, too!
Other than it being St. Patrick's Day, March 17 signifies an important date for me, as a gardener.  It's time to start my Sweet Peas from seed!  Growing season still feels so far off  (cold temps this week) but, it's imminent...thank goodness!  Have a great day!