Tuesday, May 15, 2018
BUTTERFLY HOUSE: CHESTERFIELD, MO
At the Chesterfield Butterfly House on the edge of St. Louis, Carla and I found ourselves happily immersed in exploring the unusual lives of butterflies. In their lives they go through four changes and each change results in quite differently shaped creatures.
The visit started with a movie outlining the lives which included the various ways the butterflies interacted.
Mating varied depending on the kind of butterfly. The female may respond to the beauty of the male, they may do a courtship dance, or he may cast a mist over her that makes him absolutely irresistible.
The female mates only once, the male may mate again, but regardless of the number of females he serves he soon dies and the female sets about laying her eggs, maybe up to 500.
There is a very important choice here for her for she must lay the eggs on plants that the caterpillar who comes from the egg can eat on the plant. The eggs hatch in 3 to 8 days and the resulting caterpillar grows quickly in order to create the third stage of their lives in three to five weeks: the chrysalis.
Being a caterpillar is a dangerous stage as many predators are looking for them as food. Different defenses have been developed by different varieties. If they taste bad, the predators learn to avoid anything that looks like them. Some caterpillar get by, by just looking like they are the taste bad variety.
Having colors that blend in completely with the environment is also good. A few have developed barbs on their bodies that also help them avoid becoming someone's dinner.
Now the magic stage of development where the caterpillar becomes a pupa or a chrysalis. It finds a ledge to hang from and covers itself with a heavy coating. Inside the cocoon the metamorphosis occurs with the old body parts become the beautiful butterfly that will emerge.
When the butterfly emerges from the pupa, it is weak and needs time to pump blood into its wings and then let them dry. Finally it flips itself off the ledge and with it companions creates a fascinating world of motion.
In the butterfly building we were surrounded by an assortment of children. At the movie the little ones had paid no attention to the screen, but here their attention was focused as they watched the wide variety of butterflies either flying or dining.
A giant caterpillar lies outside the Chesterfield Butterfly House
A butterfly uses its tongue to suck nectar from its special plant
Surrounding us were 60 different varieties of butterflies from around the world: Australia, Southeast Asia, South America and the United States. Because each has its own diet requirements the room was filled with a 150 different plants from all the places they came from.
Most of the butterflies we saw were drinking the nectar from plants and flowers through their tongues that work like straws. They would rest on plant for brief moments and then quickly move on, so we were surrounded by constant motion.
The Magnificent Owl with the large eyes on its wings were dining on rotten bananas hanging from supports. A large number of Blue Morphos from Central America were dining off flowers. Fruit trays with a variety of fresh fruits were available, but most were looking for a particular flower or plant to feast on.
We were there on a rainy, cloudy day so we didn't take advantage of the Butterfly Garden where they have both native and migrating species available for viewing.
A short distance away is the St. Louis Carousel. Built in 1921 it has 60 hand carved horses, four deer and two sleighs. By 1979 time had taken its toll and carousel was retired.
In 1987 it was put back into action in a climate controlled building to insure its preservation. We rode the highly realistic horses enjoying the up and down motions, but something was lacking. It was the screech's of our grandchildren that we had enjoyed on previous carousels and ventures.
We enjoyed our time in St. Louis and were especially pleased to see so many adults, teens and children exploring the museum.
Each species of butterfly needs its own special plant for food
Rotten bananas work for this species