Saturday, July 26, 2014

Magic Wings Butterfly House at Museum of Life and Science


Butterflies alight in us a wonder and curiosity of how such a small insect can conquer and soften the hearts of people across the world. To see a butterfly brings peace. I can stay mesmerized for hours watching butterflies fly from flower to flower. All heads turn at the mention of a butterfly being present. We desire to know the secret of how a wiggly caterpillar can turn into a winged creature, but that mystery is the magic behind a butterfly. They appear to be amongst the most delicate of creatures, but it is because of this elegance and fragility that we seek to become attuned to our surroundings. Butterflies welcome us to explore the rest of creation. They invite us to take care of our environment and praise God who was behind every detail of their design. We have only begun to scratch the surface of life and science so I invite you to come along with me as I take you on a journey of pictures I took while visiting the Magic Wings Butterfly House at the Museum of Life and Science.

Magic Wings Butterfly House Website:


The butterfly conservatory is the largest museum butterfly house east of the Mississippi. It is 35 feet tall enclosed in glass that simulates a tropical environment. Butterflies like tropical steamy environments and the exhibit caters to that. They have a water feature and keep the temperature at 80 degrees Fahrenheit. More than 250 exotic plant species add color and vibrancy to the conservatory. They allure the butterflies down to allow us tourists to gaze at their beauty.


The Mary Martha Uzzle Emerging Wonders Window allows guests to see the magic behind the emergence of a butterfly.


To capture a photo of the Blue Morpho with its wings open is not common place. This is the first time in my 5 + years of raising butterflies and 12 years of photography that I’ve gotten such a crisp photo of a Blue Morpho in this position.


Butterflies are friendly and may land on you if you are patient. In is prudent not to try and catch a butterfly unless you are an experienced butterfly raiser. They are resilient, but still can be easily damaged.




There were a wide variety of tropical plants and some were simply on the wild side.


They also had trees like this Cocoa tree which is the source of a oh so delicious chocolate bar.


Outside of the glass conservatory the tour and learning experience continued with mounted butterfly specimens from around the world on different continents. The Bayer Crop Science Insectarium is part of the experience that has 25 live exotic and native species of insects and predators including a rather hairy tarantula. My first thought, “I wonder if they let anybody hold it?”


The conclusion or beginning of the experience depending on your perspective, was in the great outdoors where native plant species and wild flowers attract butterflies, bees, and pollinators. This patch above are Common Milkweed which are native to North America and are the host plant of the famous Monarch butterfly. Every flower is a source of food and nourishment for our winged insect friends. Thanks for joining me on this tour!


Saturday, July 12, 2014

How to Build your Own Butterfly Conservatory


finished butterfly conservatory

I’ve been raising butterflies for 5 years ever since I was 15 years old. I wrote my first book about butterflies after gathering research from all my experiences and stories. We call ourselves butterfly enthusiasts. You’ll know us we you see us. The people who wear everything from shirts with butterflies on them to butterfly purses and matching butterfly earrings. We are fearless and will climb through a poison ivy patch if it means finding a hard to find butterfly host plant.  We will tramp through roadside ditches if it means finding Milkweed for our Monarch babies. We will stop at nothing to insure the safety of our precious butterflies so beware. Alright, I’m exaggerating here, but I can assure you that butterfly lovers are among the coolest people I’ve ever met and are among the generous of people. There have been many people who have helped me along on my butterfly journey and below are pictures of my butterfly conservatory during the construction phase as well as pictures of my butterfly caterpillars.


The butterfly conservatory was created by recycling a patio pergola that was donated to us. Watching the transformation process has been great. My mom has put in countless hours to make it an exquisite one of a kind butterfly conservatory. The first step was painting the individual panels which took 10 cans of Rustoleum spray paint. Next, the conservatory was mounted on a 2’ x 4’ wood base with 8 inch anchors to secure it. To make the conservatory mosquito and wasp proof, we ordered 86 inch  by 100 feet of fiber glass pool screen. It was secured to the wood frame by using an air gun and then my mom hand sewed the walls by using 450 yards of outdoor thread and then sewing up the roof made up of 2 panels. The totals for the materials was around $200 and the frame was donated.


Rolling out the fiberglass pool screen for the butterfly conservatory.


In about two weeks time my babies turned into teenage caterpillars and will emerge as beautiful butterfly adults. There is a beauty and mystery in the butterfly life cycle. How a wormlike creature can grow into a winged insect. They will never lose their mystery. They are a reminder of the great Creator God who is too great to comprehend. And so I have faith and just have to trust God and realize I can’t possibly understand everything. I don’t need to know how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly in order to enjoy the beauty of it. And so it is with God. I don’t need to understand everything that happens in this world, but still I trust that God works all things for good.


I ended up getting thirteen chrysalises.


This is my first Monarch chrysalis in 1 1/2 years because of two moves and a lot of hard work to get our farm established. A good friend asked me what I’m going to name it and I decided on Hope because it has given me hope that I can with the help of others save the Monarchs. Some of my neighbors are jumping on board to help! I believe with all my heart that I can help save the butterflies and I will never give up hope. I believed this from the very beginning and still do to this day.

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I raise my caterpillars in containers and once they make chrysalises I move them into another butterfly habitat to prevent curious caterpillar from damaging new chrysalises. I get mine from Judi Sunshine owner of It is easy for chrysalises to get damaged if they have not hardened yet. For this reason I find it best to separate the different stages. I also separate some of the different caterpillar instars and eggs from caterpillars to avoid the large caterpillars from accidentally eating them. Another tip is to put Milkweed in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator if it is getting ready to rain or you want to save yourself from a trip to the garden. A great time saver. Here is a picture of my butterfly habitat inside my butterfly conservatory.


Milkweed = Monarch. Without it there are none so please start planting them today.  Get free Milkweed seeds and more here.