July 17, 2022
The Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory opened to the general public on January 26, 2001. It was originally known as the Wings of Paradise Butterfly Conservatory but changed its name in 2011 to better reflect the community in which it operated. The conservatory is housed in a 25,000 square foot building which includes a 10,800 square foot tropical garden where the butterflies are free to roam among the plants.
There are over 120 species of tropical plants in the garden many of which are in flower providing a place for the butterflies to feed. An artificial waterfall feeds a small pond which is full of goldfish and red-eared slider turtles.
Throughout the world there are about 30,000 species of butterflies with about 275 occurring in Canada. The butterflies in the conservatory are brought in from butterfly farms in Costa Rica and the Philippines. There are four stages to a butterfly’s life. It begins when a female butterfly lays a series of tiny eggs on a plant leaf. When the eggs hatch the larva or caterpillar will emerge. The caterpillar will feed on the leaves of the host plant until it is fully grown. Often the caterpillar can only eat a single type of leaf such as the milkweed plant which hosts Monarch Butterfly caterpillars. When the caterpillar is full grown it enters the pupa stage in which it spins a chrysalis around itself. The butterflies at the conservatory are imported in their chrysalis from sustainable farms. The image below shows a batch of Blue Morpho butterflies in their chrysalis.
The conservatory glues these in pairs to small straws and sets them aside to finish the metamorphosis into adult butterflies. If you arrive at the right time you may get to see a butterfly emerge from one of them. The Tarricina in the image below had just emerged and was waiting for its wings to dry so that it could fly away. The butterflies are then free to explore the tropical garden for the remainder of their lives. The total lifespan of the insect is about 40 days of which 6-10 is spent in the chrysalis phase.
Butterflies are insects with three body segments and six legs. They feed on nectar from flowers as well as fruit juices and honey. There are several places throughout the garden where they can drink from pieces of orange or banana. The Blue Morpho in the picture below was drinking from an orange through its long probiscis.
The butterfly in this picture has its probiscis rolled up but clearly visible on the front of its face.
Insects make up about 58% of all species on the planet and are an important part of the ecosystem. Unlike most insects which are feared or at least looked upon with disgust, butterflies are embraced for their beauty and charisma. They live all over the planet from sea level to the tops of mountains and from the equator to above the Arctic Circle. Some of them have very specific habitats while others like the White Cabbage Butterfly can be found in many different habitats and on different continents. Butterflies can be distinguished from moths by their antennae which are thin compared to a moth which has feathered ones.
The Brown Clipper is native to rainforests and can usually be found around rivers and streams. The conservatory also feature a Blue Clipper.
The Asian Swallowtail Butterfly is also known as The Chinese Yellow Swallowtail because of the yellow underwing colouring. These butterflies mate several times during their lifespan and are known to migrate up to 200 kilometers during their lives.
There are several different types of tropical birds that live in the conservatory and they are all remarkably tame. They will practically walk right up to you and don’t mind posing for pictures. The Zebra Finch in the picture below is native to Australia.
There are a number of live insects in display cases in the conservatory and one of the most unusual creatures featured here is the Blue Poison Dart Frog. These frogs live in Suriname and northern parts of Brazil and were only discovered in 1969. Their diet is made up largely of ants and the phosphorus in them causes the frog to have a poisonous skin that can kill even larger predators.
Aside from live displays there are also several displays of mounted butterflies and insects.
The Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory has an admission price of $20.00 for adults and tickets need to be purchased on line in order to guarantee that you will be able to get in when you arrive. The tropical garden is hot and humid to provide a natural environment for the butterflies that live there, so you’ll want to make sure that you don’t over-dress for your visit.
Also see our post Butterflies of the GTA
Google Maps Link: Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory
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