The Conservatory is divided into two sections. The first room is educational which makes it easier to appreciate the main room when you get there.
As you enter there is a glass case with a Butterfly Tree in it. This model tree and monarch butterflies demonstrates how fully covered a tree would be if the migrating monarchs chose it to spend the night. It can be covered completely covered by thousands of monarchs. It’s pretty amazing. I have seen it on the Discovery Channel but it would be really nice to see it for real in the wild.
There is a TV mounted on the wall that plays an educational video of the life cycle of a butterfly from caterpillar to cocoon to fragile insect. Beneath the TV is another diorama showing butterflies feeding on flowers, on fruit or milkweed. To the left of that was a bank of terrariums. Alex really impressed me here. The terrariums contained frogs. As we walked from one to the next, Alex would point out the little frogs and tell me what they were and their main significance…like the poisonous dart frog. To my surprise he was correct on all of them and he’s only 7 years old. Like I said, I am very impressed.
Moving on we came to a large glass case that held a small bird and tiny little chicks. They seemed to be in perpetual motion running here, there and then back again. No wonder they stay so little. they use all their energy running around instead of growing. In any case, meet the Quail Family.
Along the same wall were huge cases of mounted butterflies. Each case identified the region the butterflies were found, Africa, South America and so forth.
There were more cases in a row down the center of the room. Here were the creepy crawlies. There were huge African Hissing Cockroaches, (I don’t want to run into one of those anytime soon.) stick bugs (I think we used to call them “walking sticks” when I was a kid”. Then there were bugs that looked like dried leaves. You couldn’t even tell they were there unless they moved and a tail-less scorpion. There was a gecko and last but not least some live butterflies.
On the remaining walls were the rules. The main one was “Don’t touch the Butterflies”. It went on the explain that when you reach for a butterfly all it sees is this big hand coming at it and it thinks it’s about to be “lunch” for some creature. It tries to get away. The wings are very fragile and damaged wings=dead butterfly. So it’s ok if the butterfly chooses to land on you but don’t reach out for the butterfly.
So with the rules under our belts we opened the big gray doors and stepped into what can only be described as an airlock! Warm air blew down from the ceiling creating a pretty strong breeze. The short hall was lined with floor to ceiling mirrors. The door on the other end was glass and we could see a lush forest of trees, vines , bushes and BUTTERFLIES! All sizes, all shapes and colors, they were swooping and fluttering landing and taking off.
There was even one right in front of the glass doors. We stood waiting as the white and black striped insect flitted and flirted with the glass. Finally it appeared to move away and we opened the door only to have “Stripes” make a bee line for the open door. The warm breeze from the fans in the hallway hit that little bug like a fist and it dropped to the ground. We all just stood and looked. No one had touched it. We closed the door and waited to see if it would move but it just lay there, apparently stunned. A Magic Wings employee came hurrying over to retrieve the stunned creature and hurried off with it to put it on a flower. Escape foiled! Now we knew why there was a warm breeze in the “airlock”.
Crisis over we moved deeper into the foliage.
The exhibit, like the restaurant was a busy place today. I don’t know if it is because it’s a holiday weekend or if it’s always like that. Lots of cameras in evidence too as we tried to catch a moment when one of the fluttering willow the wisps was still.
There were paths and benches and every where butterflies. At the end of the first path was a “Butterfly Nursery’ A large board was covered with cocoons, chrysalis and pupae of all sizes. As we stood watching a butterfly emerged from one and stood clinging to the empty shell waiting for its wings to stiffen.
As we wandered the paths we were awed by the profusion of colors. Not only were butterflies everywhere but so were the exotic flowers and plants. Dawn was determined to get a butterfly to land on her. She walked around with her finger stretched out to form a perch. I was afraid she was going to be disappointed and tried to get her to just take a “wait & see” approach. But being only 5, she would not be dissuaded. In the end, persistance paid off and a butterfly not only landed but stayed long enough for us to get the picture.
In addition to the butterflies and flowers and plants the little quail families were everywhere.
They also had a terrarium with a huge fat frog. Right next to it were two other terrariums with lizards. In the same area were the birds. The little sparrow/finch type birds were in cages but a parrot seemed to be free to do as it pleased. Sitting on its cage seemed to be what it pleased. 🙂
A bit farther on was a Koi pond with really big goldfish. The habitat seemed to have covered all the bases. There were plenty of feeding stations for the butterflies too from smashed up over ripe bananas to nectar style sponges.
It was warm in the exhibit as they are trying to replicate a tropical environment but with our hands stamped we could go in and out of the exhibit at will.
Each time we entered the “wind tunnel” air lock and looked for butterflies on our clothing before exiting. Finally it was time for a last stop in the gift shop before we called it a day. We still had one more stop to make before we could head home but I’m running out of room in this post.