Saturday, June 13, 2009

Happiness is as a Butterfly...

"Happiness is as a butterfly, which when pursued is always beyond our grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly may alight upon you." ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

As you enter the Butterfly House in St. Louis, the attendant closes the outside door and gives you the butterfly rules. Don't touch the butterflies. Don't remove any plants. Don't touch the butterflies. Then the inner door opens and you enter a world of color and movement unlike anything you have ever seen.

The butterflies, small and large, move constantly. Sometimes they brush against you as they flutter by in flocks. Delighted laughter is the first response of both adults and most children. Other children shriek in fright as the colorful insects near their faces. Identification guide in hand, you wander into the humid jungle of Central America, neck craning to take it all in.

The Blue Morpho catches your eye first, since it is a bright almost neon blue color, and easily the largest butterfly there. However, it doesn't like to perch at all! If it does land, the wings immediately fold into an upright position displaying brown with eye spots and not a bit of blue. The other Morphs go to their quiet friend and bump into him. “Tag! You're it!” they seem to say as all of them streak off together.

How can you get a good photo of a Blue Morpho? I'm not sure that can be done with a live one. I tried focusing where they flew through, thinking to catch one in motion. I only got some blurry spots of blue, since they fly faster than I can see them, press the shutter and have the picture take. At the banana bar, one might flash a little blue in between slurps of rotting banana. How about movies? Again, I aimed where they were flying, and of course, they flew somewhere else.

A white and black Paper Kite decided that my sunscreen was just irresistibly yummy, and rode around on my leg for at least 20 minutes! Obviously, they don't tell the butterflies not to touch the humans! I wonder how many other visitors went home with pictures of my leg with the Paper Kite? Butterflies attract each other with their bold colors, but many change to drab browns for defense when they land and fold their wings. Others blend in with the background even with open wings. One looks like a dead leaf, but I don't think we saw it at all. You really need to have pictures both the wings open and wings closed positions to identify any butterfly. As I processed 169 photos in the evening, I gratefully pulled out the brochure with pictures and names of all the butterflies so I could record mine correctly. Well, only a couple of mine appeared among the 24 in the brochure. I added them to the species “unknownus.” Then I saw the fine print. “The butterfly species depicted here are those most commonly exhibited in the Tropical Conservatory. On any specific day, there may be additional species, and some species listed here may not be in flight.” Yep, that pretty well sums it up.

If you get close enough, their faces are really interesting, with huge eyes, and a roll-out proboscis for sipping nectar.

Sweating profusely from what felt like 120% humidity levels, we decided to take a break and go outside to the natural gardens for local butterflies. The lovely day was cool and cloudy, and the butterflies hid where ever it is they go when they don't want to come out and play. The Garden hosts pavilion areas which are available for weddings and other event. Wouldn't that be a great place for a wedding?


NCmountainwoman said...

I think these butterfly exhibits have done a great job educating people about these lovely creatures. Great photographs.

Arlene said...

I thought your photos were beautiful too. I guess all butterfly houses go for the 120% humidity thing. We have one here in Tucson, only open in the winter and early spring months and despite extremely low humidity outside you are sure to be dripping when you get inside--not to mention camera lenses instantly fogging up. Some butterfly houses do host weddings. I recall visiting on in Florida that offered that. Wish that were an option when I got married.....