Butterfly facts:  Butterflies are important pollinators and they are endangered.  It is thrilling to see these insect aviators close-up in an observatory.  The Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory provides a magnificent place to view these beautiful creatures and to get immersed in butterfly facts.

Butterflies Were Once Abundant

Growing up in Sarnia, Ontario  in the 70’s, my family and I lived beside a farmer’s field.  There was milkweed everywhere.  Monarch butterflies and their caterpillars were easy to find.Butterfly facts: Karner Blue

In the early 80’s, my brother got himself in the local paper all because of a butterfly.  I can still see the picture of him with a very big Karner Blue Butterfly on his shoulder. Even then, the Karner Blue was an endangered butterfly.  You can’t find them in Ontario anymore.

Monarchs too are very hard to spot in most of the province.  We have plenty of Milkweed plants on our farm.  I never see Monarch caterpillars.  Rarely do I see the once familiar Monarch butterfly.  Like my Barn Swallows,  they are a dying breed in these parts.

Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory has Butterfly Facts

Butterflies are pollinators.  They are really important in their ecosystems for this reason.  Dropping my youngest son in Guelph to check out the University campus with his brother gave me a chance to check out a fabulous exhibit.   Nearby in Cambridge, Ontario I took the time to explore the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory.   If you love butterflies and are intrigued by an educational destination then this butterfly conservatory is highly recommended!

The conservation officers in this place are very knowledgeable. I spent some time speaking with one young lady.  Here are 5 interesting butterfly facts I learned at the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory.

  1. This Conservatory does not raise local butterflies. Every 2 weeks, live pupa are received from Costa Rica.  They come from the El Bosque Nuevo Butterfly Farm.  100% of the profits from the purchase of these live butterflies is invested into reforestation and conservation of tropical rain forest habitat in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica.  Over 150 acres of rain forest has been protected from deforestation, wildfire and pesticides.  112 acres of the Guanacaste area has been actively reforested.
  2. The Cambridge Conservatory does not actively breed their butterflies.  They could not house enough vegetation to support the voracious feeding of the caterpillars.  Butterflies are very specific as to the plants on which they lay eggs.  In order to discourage breeding, the Conservatory supports plants not native to the Costa Rican  butterflies. Butterfly facts: Costa Rican butterflies
  3.  Every evening, Conservatory staff scrape off the eggs that some butterflies still release.  Swallowtails will lay their eggs on citrus plants and often the females get desperate, and spray eggs on citrus fruit offered to them as food.
  4. Releasing butterflies into the wild that were born in captivity is an unwise practice.  I have heard of butterfly releases at weddings.  It would seem like a good practice when trying to reintroduce a butterfly species into an area it once inhabited.  But this practice is now frowned upon.  Captive bred populations often have diseases and parasites that spread to wild populations.
  5. The “dust” on butterfly wings are scales.  Each scale is a single color.  Scales containing different pigment chemicals give each species its characteristic colors and patterns.  This article on VQR by Thomas Eisner discusses the function of butterfly and moth scales.  The Conservatory staff asked guests not to handle the butterflies.  I expect that request was not only to protect the butterflies from rough handling but also because touching the butterflies removes a lot of these scales damaging the creature.Butterflies are an important part of ecosystems serving as part of the pollinator community. Click To Tweet

Conservation and Research about Butterflies is Vital

Butterfly facts: Monarch butterfliesButterflies are an important part of ecosystems serving as part of the pollinator community along with bees.  Like bees, many are endangered.  It is important that education centers teaching the community about the value and beauty of these insects exist.  The Cambridge Butterfly Museum promotes very well the value of these captivating pollinators.  In addition to educating the public, they support pollinator conservation through their Pollinator Project. They also support a number of other conservation and research projects.  They are a proud member of the Karner Blue Ontario Partnership and support the research of Jesse Jarvis, MSc student at the University of Guelph who is investigating Ontario supporting populations of the Karner Blue Butterfly once again.

Will I live to see the Milkweed on my property support a thriving population of Monarchs once again?  It’s hard to say. But I will be planting areas of my garden with hardy, butterfly friendly flowers and shrubs this spring.  I have a new area that needs some work.  Time to research butterfly friendly plants!

If you enjoyed this post, check out this one listing 20 more interesting butterfly facts.  This article, The Ultimate Guide to Butterflies & How to Prevent Their Decline from DIY Garden is a wealth of information on butterfly biology and creating a garden attractive to butterflies.

5 Awesome Butterfly Facts from a Beautiful Butterfly House