Flutter Away…

“Butterfly Alive” exhibit teaches with interactive experience

by JENNY GARZA/Entertainment Editor

Everything is green, bright colors are flying around the room and children are pointing to the sky screaming and laughing.

This is what is first seen when walking into the “Butterfly Alive!” exhibit, where hundreds of beautiful butterflies fly around your head at the Science Spectrum in Lubbock.

This exhibit has been open to the public since March 5 and will continue to be open until June 12.

“The director here brought the butterfly exhibit in for the purpose of just teaching people about butterflies and letting them see butterflies up close and personal,” says Kevin Rhodes curator of Life Sciences at the Science Spectrum.

Rhodes is the caretaker not only for the butterflies but for all the animals that are in exhibits in the Science Spectrum.

According to Rhodes, the Science Spectrum had to acquire a permit from U.S. Department of Agriculture. They mandated certain butterflies that they could have, including the Monarch butterflies that also coordinates with the film they have.

When first walking into the room where the exhibit is held, there are these window-like structures that are called the “Pupae Emergence Cabinet” which allow for adults and children to walk up to them and see what is in them. These are where the cocoons are and the newly hatched butterflies are kept before entering the Flight House.

“We have about 60 different species that we are running right now in the butterfly exhibit but during the summer we will have about 100 species,” says Rhodes.

Several different kinds of butterflies of various sizes are resting against the walls drying their wings. Rows and rows of butterfly cocoons are hanging from wooden bars across the wall. The cocoons are green, and some look like brittle leafs that are about to fall apart.

When first entering the Flight House, there is a very cold room that has clear flaps over the entrance to the main room with all the butterflies.

Heat hits when passing through the clear curtain-like cover, and butterflies of all colors are flying  around the room.

There are fountains, and children are running around trying to get a butterfly to land on them. Some adults were even cracking smiles because butterflies were landing on them as well.

The structure that the butterflies are kept in is a big green house room with different plants and trees that the butterflies use to put their cocoons and eggs on and that the caterpillars eat, such as tropical milkweed, dill, frogfruit, and many more.

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In some places around the room, there are little bowls that contain colorful sponges that contain nectar. The butterflies land on the sponges and take in the nectar before flying off.

Some of the butterflies blend into their surroundings such as on dry trees or dirt on the ground. Some will even land on a person’s jeans and stick to one person because of the person’s scent, according to one volunteer there who told a crowd around her.

“The public can just come in, and with the limited information that we give them, they can interact on their own and can see something that flutters across their yard at home,” says Rhodes. “They can see it contained and see the science behind it like the wings.”

In the Flight House, there were butterflies from all over, as well as some that migrate here or that are native to our neck of the woods, such as Monarch butterflies.

The Monarch butterfly numbers have been declining, so the Science Spectrum included this species into the exhibit to get information out there. Milkweed is also a plant that is being destroyed by pesticide. The monarchs use this plant to deposit eggs and larvae during breeding season.

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“They are a native in Lubbock, especially in East Lubbock,” Rhodes says of the Monarchs. “There is more habitat for the monarch butterfly along their fly away. So when they venture all the way to Canada, and the life cycle continues in Canada and the northern part of the United States, they start to turn back around to migrate to Mexico. So we just feel like it is a conservation effort to notify and make people aware that monarch butterfly habitat is limited. So we help people plant certain plants that will allow for the butterflies to take a rest and drink some nectar.”

Walking around the room, you can see different butterflies traveling in groups and others fluttering around alone, attaching themselves to trees or people and then flying off when the person notices them.

A person can choose to stay in the exhibit room for hours. There are benches around the room for someone to sit and enjoy the sounds of water or the humid heat that the butterflies must be in.

During the summer, they will be getting more types of butterflies from all over the world, including from Singapore, Philippines, North and South America.

This is the second year that the Science spectrum brought the Butterfly Alive! Exhibit back. The first one was in 2013. They also have Critterfest as an annual exhibit featuring many different kinds of animals.

“We do this about every three years,” Rhodes said of the butterfly exhibit. “The first time we did it was a huge success. Lots of people came out to enjoy it, from children that were 3 years old to busses coming out from nursing homes.”

The Science Spectrum shows visitors how to start a Butterfly Garden in your backyard, explaining the host plants that the adult butterflies need and the nectar pots they need.

With butterflies fluttering around your head and seeing how science is involved with everyday creatures, the “Butterfly Alive!” exhibit does not disappoint. This exhibit allows anyone to get away from everyday life and become a kid again.

Author: Plainsman Press Staff

The student newspaper of South Plains College.

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