Sunday, May 6, 2012

First Road Trip of the Season

Rice Paper Butterfly
Today dawned sunny and warm so we hit the road mid-morning and headed west (after the obligatory fuel-up at Timmy's, of course). Sarah bought us two admissions for the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory for $10 (normally $26) from Team Buy last week because she's wanted to go there (the Conservatory, not the website) for quite some time. (We've not been to any butterfly conservatories before, not even the one in Niagara. It wasn't particularly busy today so we were able to move about rather freely on the paths inside. It was, of course, quite humid where the butterflies were living; it must take a bit of getting used to for the staff members who work there. It smelled wonderful, though: very lush and alive. There were a lot of very sunny patches where some of the creatures had set up shop to "catch a few rays". It was, in fact, very bright overall; I rarely had to use a flash for these pictures.

The "Emergence Window"
The butterflies are delivered as pupae (or "chrysalides") from breeding farms in Costa Rica and the Philippines. This "Emergence Window" is where visitors can come to watch the butterflies emerge from their chrysalides and dry their wings before flying into the Conservatory. The staff take the pupae and stick them onto coffee stirrers (!) with hot glue (!!) to hang them in the array seen in this picture. We watched a couple of different species come out of their pupae here; once they start to break out the whole process only takes a few minutes. I filmed one of the events, but it did not really turn out well enough to share, sadly.

Blue Morpho Butterfly (top view)
There are close to 50 different species of butterflies in the brochure for the Conservatory. I imagine they rotate them seasonally as, while there were certainly quite a few types on display today, there were nowhere near 50 variations. That just means we'll need to go back, I guess! They varied widely in size; the Blue Morpho shown here was one of the larger ones (as was the Rice Paper butterfly in the top picture). This particular species was quite a tease; there were several of them constantly flitting about our heads but we were hard-pressed to get them to sit still long enough to get a picture of their top, or blue, side.

Blue Morpho (bottom view)
There were lots of these little "fruit plates" set out for the butterflies (and, I would imagine, some of the birds - although we only ever saw the butterflies land on them). They seemed to be mostly popular with the Blue Morphos; I am not sure if this means they are bullies and chase the other butterflies away or if they simply are the only ones who like the oranges. It seems unlikely that the staff would put out the fruit for only one species, though. In any event, every fruit plate had at least one butterfly on it so they were definitely not going to waste.

Here are a few pictures of some of the other species we saw today, along with our best guesses for what type each one is:

I believe this is a Lacewing (bottom view)
Golden Birdwing (on a "Swiss Cheese Plant"!)

Banded Orange
I believe this is a Scarlet Swallowtail

Still life with Banded Orange and Reebok

A few of them tried to hitch a ride on us, such as with this Banded Orange on my shoe. I already knew that it's very bad for butterflies if humans come into contact with their wings; however, today I learned that it's dangerous for them if a human touches them anywhere. One of the staffers came along and helped urge this little guy off of my foot with a laminated card. We had a couple of other stowaways as well, as you can see from the next pictures.

Before we learned not to touch their feet
Fresh out of the "Emergence Window" (not me)

"Shrimp Plant"

<-----There were lots of cool plants....

....and turtles....----->

<-----....and quails....


....and even a tarantula!----->

It was a lot of fun, but I have to say I don't know if it would have been worth it at full price. I think $13/adult might be a bit steep for what was being offered there but, since we only paid $5 each, we really got our money's worth. The vast majority of the kids and parents there were well-behaved; however, there were three old-enough-to-know-better brats doing laps at full speed along the pathways. Quite dangerous for the butterflies and birds who lived there; a couple of finches bobbing along the walkway were almost trampled. Sad to see such bad parenting and I really think someone from the Conservatory should have stepped in and done something about it. It didn't ruin the day by any means, but it's just so irritating and unnecessary. It's not a park or playground, it's a peaceful, almost meditative spot. Most people there understood this without it having to be explained to them. Ah well, always a few bad apples in every barrel.

On the way home we drove up to Elora and puttered around in town there for a while. It's a bit disappointing these days: the Elora Gorge is as beautiful as ever, of course, but the town itself is not nearly as funky as it used to be. The shops are a lot more "gourmet" and expensive (even the ice cream was ridiculously priced) and many of our favourite shops from the past have closed or changed hands (some more than once). A real pity, but perhaps if we just stay away from the overpriced touristy stuff in future visits and spend all our time at the gorge it will be a more satisfying trip. Still....overall a greatly successful first "Road Trip" of the Spring!


For some terrific pictures of last night's "Super Moon" and other cosmic wonders, please take a look at Knatolee's World. (Her blog also appears in the "Blogs I Like" sidebar on the right, but the link I provided her is directly to her post about the moon.) Thanks!


  1. Thanks so much Mr. Grumpy! This is amazing. I have seen both sides of the Blue Morpho and it is brilliant. I would love to just stand there, being surrounded by these beautiful insects, having them land on me and seeing them so close! Also what a wonderful idea being able to watch the butterflies emerge from the pupae. This is somewhere I MUST go!

    1. My friend Adam tells me the one in Niagara is also really fun - and there's quite a nice arbouretum and botanical gardens on the same property. Both of them have the "Emerging Window". That was one of the coolest things there!

      I'm glad you've seen the Blue Morpho yourself: my shots here did *not* do it justice at all. It was brilliant.

      Thanks for the comment!


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