(c) By Jim Fox
There’s some joy in the tropical paradise of the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory about an improvement in the plight of the monarchs.
Making entomologists happy is news that scientists believe the monarch butterfly population is “improving slightly” after the worst year on record.
|The Golden Birdwing butterfly at rest at the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory. (Barbara Fox photo)|
Monarchs have declined due to threats such as habitat loss, urbanization and pesticide use.
During the conservatory’s annual monarch tagging event last weekend, information was given about how to help save the butterflies and attract them to gardens.
The facility has been called a “cheap trip to the tropics” by Doug Wilson, conservatory board chair.
This is where visitors can learn all about Lepidoptera, the order of insects that includes butterflies.
It’s a great spot to spend a few hours with some 2,000 free-flying butterflies in an inviting enclave that’s warm and humid with cascading waterfalls, flora and fauna.
|The Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory is tranquil with waterfalls,
streams, flora and fauna. (Jim Fox photo)|
Andalyne Tofflemire, conservatory naturalist, said visitors are sponsoring a migratory monarch.
Numbered tags are placed on the outside of the butterfly’s wing as they prepare to make the journey to Mexico to escape Canada’s cold winter.
“Each tag has a unique code that will track the butterfly’s migration,” she said.
Unlike many insects, butterflies are widely embraced and celebrated for their beauty and charisma.
For monarchs, in particular, “education, awareness and stewardship are critical to the success of the populations,” said Adrienne Brewster, conservatory curator and executive director.
Last winter had the lowest recorded population of monarchs over-wintering in Mexico but it appears they are poised to make a modest comeback this fall, she said.
|An Owl butterfly feasts on some rotting fruit. (Barbara Fox photo)|
In Canada, increased urbanization and the subsequent loss of habitat threaten the monarchs while in Mexico illegal logging in the forests of their overwintering grounds has had a profound effect on their population.
“Something as simple as planting milkweed (their food source) in your garden for the caterpillar to feed on will go a long way to help sustain the monarch,” she said.
It’s a jungle in there
|Turtles enjoy the pond and stream in the tropical butterfly conservatory. (Jim Fox photo)|
Along with the several thousand free-flying butterflies, the lush tropical indoor conservatory has 75 species of plants along with birds, bugs and Cheecho, the fun-loving, green-cheeked conure parrot native to South America.
There are waterfalls, streams, reflecting pools, tropical finches, Chinese painted quail and red-eared slider turtles in the facility where the temperature ranges from 24C to 28C with high humidity.
|Conservatory naturalist Andalyne Tofflemire shows some stick bugs to visitors. (Barbara Fox photo)|
Visitors walk along pathways discovering the various types of butterflies – all of them hatched from shipments from Costa Rica and the Philippines – flying, resting on leaves and feasting on fruit and nectar drinks.
Its Paradise Garden Cafe offers a “fresh and healthy menu designed with an emphasis on daily features prepared from fresh and locally farmed ingredients.”
|Colin Rier and executive chef Tammy Doaust serving meals in the Paradise Garden Cafe. (Jim Fox photo)|
Many items are grown in the conservatory garden and on an adjacent farm, while there are outdoor tables available for picnicking.
The Paradise Gift Store sells butterfly and bug collectables, framed butterflies and insects, nature books, educational children’s toys and more.
Continuing until Sept. 31 is the exhibit Our Feathered Friends from the Canadian Museum of Nature.
It introduces visitors to the basics of bird-watching with 23 mounted birds and an interactive audio of a variety of bird songs.
Need to know
The Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory is at 2500 Kossuth Rd., Cambridge (on the outskirts of Kitchener) and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Oct. 15.
|Colourful gardens surround the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory. (Jim Fox photo)|
It is closed Mondays from Oct. 15 to March 1, except Dec. 29 and Family Day in February, and closed Dec. 22 to 26 and Jan 1, but open on holidays.
Admission is $11.50 adults; $10.25, seniors 65 and older, and youths, 13 to 17; $6, children three to 12; and free for infants to age two. There is a 10-percent discount for buying tickets online. Parking is free.
Details: cambridgebutterfly.com; (519) 653-1234. To learn about the monarch migration: monarchwatch.org
Jim Fox can be reached at email@example.com
For more One-Tank Trips: http://1tanktrips.blogspot.ca