Monday, April 16, 2012

April 14, 2012. The Hawthornes Visit Natural Bridge. Part 1 Of 2. The Butterfly Garden.

On Saturday,
the Hawthornes left Lexington
and headed to Natural Bridge, Virginia.
There's a new exhibit there -
a butterfly garden.
Tropical plants and flowers line the walkways
and there's a waterfall and a small pond. 
Butterflies feed on the flowers' nectar
and fermenting fruit left out by their caretakers.

Butterflies at the Bridge
is Virginia's largest indoor live butterfly exhibit.
The humid, 80-degree, 1800 square-foot habitat
is home to hundreds of butterflies,
in addition to a nursery where pupae are housed
and visitors can watch them transform and take flight.

Natural Bridge has had a long, harmonious relationship
with butterflies.
Butterflies have inhabited the bridge for years,
attracted to the area's limestone, 
feeding on the nectar of trailside flowers
and on the minerals in the creek's shallow streambed
and its large wet rocks.
Along the walls of Natural Bridge,
butterflies find potassium nitrates in the damp limestone.

The garden houses a number of domestic species,
but more exotic species can be seen, like the 
South American Blue Morpho, the Asian Red Admiral,
the small postman, tiger longwing, and turquoise cracker.

The garden is kept at 80 degrees and 80 per cent humidity
to recreate an environment similar to regions
of South and Central America,
where most of the butterflies originate.

New butterflies are shipped to Natural Bridge every two weeks,
arriving in the pupa, or chrysalis, stage of development.
They are hot-glued to a wooden peg in the "nursery,"
or "emergence chamber," which is a glass case
located in the exhibit, so visitors can witness the life cycle.
The average life span of a butterfly is about 7 to 10 days
and it takes anywhere from a few hours to a week
for the butterfly to emerge from its chrysalis.
Caretakers then release the butterflies into the garden.

This is the Blue Morpho butterfly,
The wings are bright blue, edged with black.
It is one of the largest butterflies in the world,
with wings spanning from five to eight inches.
Its natural habitat is the tropical forest of Latin America
from Mexico to Columbia.

The undersides of the morpho's wings
are a dull brown color with many eyespots,
providing camouflage against predators 
such as birds and insects.

This is an owl butterfly,
from South and Central America,
feeding on fermenting strawberries and orange.

This is a butterfly emerging from his chrysalis
in the "emergence chamber.

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