Pin It
Favorite

Butterflies Alive! exhibit soars in Santa Barbara 

After saying hello to Chad—the 70-plus-foot blue whale skeleton that greets visitors at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History on May 30—I enter the museum, pay my dues, and get a bracelet for the Butterflies Alive! exhibit, on display through Sept. 5.

click to enlarge ALL EYES ON YOU :  A common buckeye (junonia coenia). - PHOTO BY TREVER DIAS
  • PHOTO BY TREVER DIAS
  • ALL EYES ON YOU : A common buckeye (junonia coenia).

A trail of butterfly shaped decals leads me to the backyard of the museum where a large mesh enclosure or pavilion surrounds a multitude of plants and trees, and a variety of butterflies flutter within.

While standing in line for the pavilion I check out some chrysalides and caterpillars on display outside the exhibit, and a museum employee explains the butterfly pavilion etiquette—like no touching the butterflies even if they land on you, check yourself for hitchhikers before leaving, and so on. After a short wait, I go through the butterfly pavilion version of an air lock, a small room between the inside and the outside world where the door to the outside must be closed before the one leading inside can be opened, in order to prevent escapes. 

click to enlarge IN THREES :  Three zebra longwings (heliconius charitonia). - PHOTO BY TREVER DIAS
  • PHOTO BY TREVER DIAS
  • IN THREES : Three zebra longwings (heliconius charitonia).

I grab one of the laminated guides about common pavilion butterflies that are available to museum guests. Native species like common buckeyes and great southern whites as well as non-native species like zebra longwings, queens, and malachites flutter throughout the pavilion, collect nectar from brightly colored flowers, roost in the trees, and sometimes land on attendees.

While sitting on one of the stone borders of the planters, I get a close-up view of a pipevine swallowtail as it makes its way from one tiny, red, nectar-filled flower to the next. It’s a captivating experience, and I feel I could spend a significant amount of time hanging out with the butterflies and enjoying the verdant plant life. 

click to enlarge ALTOGETHER NOW:  A cluster of butterflies roosts in trees at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. - PHOTO BY TREVER DIAS
  • PHOTO BY TREVER DIAS
  • ALTOGETHER NOW: A cluster of butterflies roosts in trees at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

On the other hand, I notice that some of the butterflies have tattered wings, and I hear a museum employee tell another guest who inquired about it that butterflies aren’t used to being in such enclosures. While some butterflies are enjoying the array of enticing flowers within, others cling to the ceiling, as if they want out.

Though the captive butterflies are protected from natural predators like birds and provide museum guests with an experience that may deepen their appreciation of the natural world, they are also winged creatures living out their entire, albeit relatively short, lives without ever experiencing the open skies.

That may mean passing on future butterfly pavilions for me, but I think I can be content with encountering a monarch now and then while out on a hike, or the occasional backyard visit from a giant swallowtail, or spontaneously driving very slowly through a swarm of painted ladies on the back roads of SLO. 

- CHILLIN’ LIKE A PAVILION:  The Butterflies Alive! exhibit will be on display through Sept. 5 at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, located at 2559 Puesta del Sol, Santa Barbara, 93105. Entrance fees are $12 for adults, $8 for seniors and teens, and $7 for kids. For further info call 682-4711, or go to sbnature.org. -
  • CHILLIN’ LIKE A PAVILION: The Butterflies Alive! exhibit will be on display through Sept. 5 at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, located at 2559 Puesta del Sol, Santa Barbara, 93105. Entrance fees are $12 for adults, $8 for seniors and teens, and $7 for kids. For further info call 682-4711, or go to sbnature.org.

Regardless of what your stance is on the polarizing issue of butterfly pavilions, a visit to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is a valuable experience in its own right, and definitely worth the trip, even if it’s just to say “Hello!” to Chad. 

Calendar Editor Trever Dias has strong opinions about bugs, and can be reached at tdias@newtimesslo.com.

Tags:

Pin It
Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Search, Find, Enjoy

Submit an event

Trending Now

© 2018 New Times San Luis Obispo
Powered by Foundation