News / USA

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

Exhibit Highlights Butterfly's Beauty, Diversity, Value to Ecosystemi
X
March 28, 2013 2:56 PM
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.
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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid