News / USA

Exhibit Highlights Butterfly's Beauty, Diversity, Value to Ecosystem

Exhibit Highlights Butterfly's Beauty, Diversity, Value to Ecosystemi
X
March 28, 2013
As spring makes its slow return to the hemisphere, the Smithsonian Institution's Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C., is marking the occasion with one of its most popular exhibits - the Live Butterfly Pavilion. Now in its fifth year, the Pavilion is a warm, lush enclosure filled with beautiful flowering plants, in which visitors interact with hundreds of live butterflies, representing species from around the world. As VOA's Julie Taboh discovered, it's an exhilarating experience.
TEXT SIZE - +
— As spring makes its slow return to the hemisphere, the Smithsonian Institution's Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C., is marking the occasion with one of its most popular exhibits - the Live Butterfly Pavilion. Now in its fifth year, the Pavilion is a warm, lush enclosure filled with beautiful flowering plants, in which visitors interact with hundreds of live butterflies, representing species from around the world.

Flying Canvases

They are gentle, colorful creatures that move with grace and flair. And in a warm and humid enclosure at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., visitors have a rare opportunity to be immersed in a world filled with hundreds of living butterflies.

The permanent exhibit is an interactive and educational exhibition, titled Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution, which  provides visitors an up-close look at how butterflies and plants have evolved and diversified together for millions of years.

Interactive learning

The "Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution" exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. (VOA/J. Taboh)The "Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution" exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. (VOA/J. Taboh)
x
The "Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution" exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. (VOA/J. Taboh)
The "Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution" exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. (VOA/J. Taboh)
Dan Babbitt, manager of the Insect Zoo and Butterfly Pavilion, said visitors can get very close to the butterflies while learning about their importance in our ecosystem

“What we want to do is connect people to the natural world and we found that using live animals - and insects in particular - is an amazing way to do that,” he said.

Visitors to the Pavilion, on this day, agree. Nine-year-old Ava Canales had a lovely palm-sized Blue Morpho butterfly on her arm.

“I’ve been here before and I just loved the exhibit like when butterflies land on me," she said. "It’s really cool because you don’t get to see that in your backyard.”

And nine-year-old Gunnar Bruce had an Asian butterfly called a Scarlet Mormon land on the back of his head.

“It’s just cool how the butterflies are all over," he said. "I feel like the butterfly really likes me.”

The "Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution" exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. (C. Clark/Smithsonian Institution)The "Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution" exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. (C. Clark/Smithsonian Institution)
x
The "Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution" exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. (C. Clark/Smithsonian Institution)
The "Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution" exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. (C. Clark/Smithsonian Institution)
Butterflies and the environment

Babbitt says butterflies are important to the environment for several reasons.

“One big one is because of pollination," he said. "They will travel from flower to flower, taking pollen from one flower and depositing it into another, enabling that flower to be able to create seeds and disperse. So we wouldn’t have a number of our flowers that we like to look at, and fruit that we like to eat, without the butterfly."

"Butterflies are also important as a food source," he added, "because for a number of birds and other insects, they are either eaten as a butterfly or as the caterpillar.”

Diverse collection

Babbitt says the exhibit contains between 300 and 400 butterflies representing about 50 species - a small fraction of the world's 20,000 known butterfly species.

“We have butterflies from Asia and from Africa, and South and Central America, and here in the United States," he said. "So we display usually about 50 or so different species in the exhibit at any one time."

He said one of the most popular ones on display is the Blue Morpho butterfly from the Amazon region of South America, which has bright blue iridescent wings. "So it’s a large butterfly, and it’s very flashy,” he said.

Seventeen-year-old Kamri Ball, visiting from Texas, was thoroughly enjoying her "up-close and personal" encounter with one of the exhibit's many Blue Morphos.

“It feels great having him on my arm," she said. "He’s like my old friend.  He’s pretty cute!”

The "Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution" exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. (VOA/J. Taboh)The "Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution" exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. (VOA/J. Taboh)
x
The "Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution" exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. (VOA/J. Taboh)
The "Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution" exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. (VOA/J. Taboh)
A collaborative effort

The butterflies are raised in their countries of origin by butterfly farmers all over the world who nurture them as caterpillars.  Then, once the insects enter the pupae, or chrysalis stage and encase themselves in protective cocoons, they are shipped to the museum.  

Babbitt says they then unpack them and hang them up, and then wait for them to emerge into a butterfly.

"Then we release them into the exhibit,” he said.

Babbitt said that while there aren't any endangered butterflies in the Smithsonian’s exhibit, many species - such as the Monarch - are in decline.

“That’s something that we really need to watch out for and really focus on," he said. "The issues of deforestation and the use of pesticides and just general land management issues, to make sure that we can provide for these butterflies.”

He added that it's not just for the benefit of the butterflies, "but also for all of wildlife and for us, to make sure that we have a healthy environment.”

Public Awareness

He hopes that his exhibit will help raise public awareness about the plight of the butterflies.

With young visitors like Ava and Gunnar, the message seems to have found a receptive audience.

“I learned that when butterflies flutter when they eat, it’s because they can’t balance on the flower,” said Ava.

And Gunnar said he learned that there’s lots of different species, "and they only live for about three weeks.”

The Smithsonian’s Live Butterfly Pavilion is part of a larger exhibit which traces the evolution of the butterfly and its partnership with plants, which began more than 180 million years ago.

Dan Babbitt said the museum’s goal for the next five years is to reach as many people as it can, one curious visitor - and butterfly - at a time.

You May Like

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid