Moms

A review of what to expect at Butterflies in the Garden

It's hard to find a single soul who doesn't smile at the mere thought of a butterfly.

With that near universal adoration in mind, Fort Worth's Botanic Garden is again hosting Butterflies in the Garden, where as many as 12,000 butterflies -- familiar and exotic -- will, over the next five weeks, fill the garden's conservatory with visions of fluttering wings.

Many of these butterflies come from North and South America, Africa and Southeast Asia. Many will average between 4 to 5 inches in wingspan, and nearly all will boast a winged color pattern to rival the most dazzling stained-glass window.

"What really excites me about this show is how it will open people's eyes not just to these exotic butterflies, but to the entire natural world around them," says Dale Clark, co-founder of the Dallas County Lepidopterists' Society and owner of Butterflies Unlimited, a local butterfly ranch. Clark ordered all the exhibit's butterflies. "This exhibit will then wake up those who see the butterflies here to the ones living in their own back yard."

The following is a breakdown of 12 of the most striking and showy butterfly species to flit around the current exhibit. See if you can't use these pocket-descriptions to spot them when you go to the garden.




Atlas moth

Latin name:

Attacus atlas

Range: India, Southeast Asia, China and Malaysia

Wingspan:

10-11 inches

Signature traits: The adult moths lack functioning mouth parts, so they are actually incapable of feeding after leaving their cocoons. The male of the species comes with rather grand, featherlike antennae that it uses to home in on the female that, in turn, sends out a stream of pheromones to attract her mate. As they are rather placid during the day, they are very cooperative when it comes

to snapping their picture.

Number in exhibit: 50-100




Blue morpho

Latin name: Morpho peleides

Range: Central and South America

Wingspan: 4-5 inches

Signature traits: The males possess more blue coloring than their female counterparts. In a rare form of modesty, or by way of protective camouflage, the males and females close their wing flaps upon landing, revealing a dull brown underside. That underside is, itself, decorated with "eyespots." Their flying pattern is distinguished by the "conga line" formation that they tend to form. These butterflies derive their nutrients from tree sap and rotten fruit.

Number in exhibit: Several hundred each week are anticipated for the final exhibit.




Scarlet mormon

Latin name: Papilio rumanzovia

Range: Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia

Wingspan: 5 inches

Signature traits: You'll find, in terms of size and flight pattern, a great similarity between the scarlet mormon and the great mormon. But what eventually distinguishes this species is the random collection of red or "scarlet" markings. Females, in particular, are even more colorful; they boast pink and white marks on their wings' upper side. Having first flown at the Botanic Garden in 2008, these butterflies were such a hit that many people asked to see more of them.

Number in exhibit: Hundreds a week will be received.




Emerald swallowtail

Latin name: Papilio palinurus

Range: Southeast Asia

Wingspan: 31/2 inches

Signature traits: Sun-glinting, iridescent scales lend this species its glittering and metallic shade of green. You can often find it almost languidly resting, with its wings open. It sometimes can be rather imposing in terms of its size, making its green tint pop even more. As this species has a penchant for high-altitude flying, make sure that, upon entering the conservatory, you take a sharp look toward the ceiling to try to spot it.

Number in exhibit: Approximately 100 a week.




Small postman

Latin name: Heliconius erato

Range: South Texas through the Amazon Basin

Wingspan: 3 inches

Signature traits: This particular species of butterfly has a subspecies that is prone to mimicking another species, the postman. Both kinds tend to lay their eggs on passion vines, which contain a certain toxicity. The resulting adult butterflies absorb those plant toxins, becoming repellant to most predators. Part of a group of "longwings," owing to their unusually long, narrow wings, these butterflies drink and then break down the nectar and pollen from flowers. With this added bonus of nutrients, these butterflies usually live quite long -- as much as several months.

Number in exhibit: More than 100.




Great egg-fly

Latin name: Hypolimnas bolina

Range: Southeast Asia, Madagascar, the South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand

Wingspan: 31/2 inches

Signature traits: The male of this species usually possesses a rather grandiose purple spot on each of its important hind-wings. The females, however, don't have that distinctive marking. They often feed on rotten fruit and tropical-flower nectar. The male's wings have often suggested the shape and color of an autumnal full moon, shining in a black sky.

Number in exhibit: Approximately several hundred.




The clipper

Latin name: Parthenos sylvia

Range: Southeast Asia, Philippines

Wingspan: 31/2-4 inches

Signature traits: This species of butterfly is likely to spend a good deal of time languidly feeding on flowers and fruit. When it does feed, the clipper is likely to suspend its wings wide open, seemingly posing for a close-up photo. The butterfly is so cooperative with photographers that, reportedly, no amount of noise, or flashing light, will disturb it. The clipper is known as one of the strongest and speediest fliers of the butterfly world, and it carries a stunning range of background wing colors -- depending on its habitat -- from green to blue, yellow to brown.

Number in exhibit: Approximately 100.




Rusty-tipped page

Latin name: Siproeta epaphus

Range: Occasionally spotted in South Texas. More often in the corridor from Mexico through Peru.

Wingspan: 31/2 inches

Signature traits: This butterfly is known to be a large and highly swift flier. Its color scheme also makes it stand out because its wings are a mix of deep chocolate brown, accented with orange wing tips that mimic metallic rust. They possess a very well-defined first set of legs, which they then use to sense appropriate host plants by taste -- as opposed to actually alighting upon them. You'll often find this species flitting around low-lying vegetation, only several feet above the ground, and not high up in a rain-forest canopy.

Number in exhibit: Approximately 100.




Tiger longwing

Latin name: Heliconius ismenius

Range: Mexico to Panama (with some spotted down in the Peruvian Amazon region)

Wingspan: 3 inches

Signature traits: Another of the "longwing" varieties, this species has a penchant for laying its eggs on various kinds of passion vines. And it also absorbs toxins from those same plants, thus helping ward off certain predators. This self-protection mechanism helps the butterfly enjoy an unusually long life. Also prolonging its life is its steady diet of nectar and pollen.

Number in exhibit: 20-50 each week.




Paper kite

Latin name: Idea leuconoe

Range: Throughout a good deal of Southeast Asia

Wingspan: 41/2 inches

Signature traits: This butterfly comes from the same family that includes the highly familiar monarch. A highly photogenic species, the paper kite will calmly rest on a flower, stretching out its wings in such a way as to appear to be a divalike model. The sensual delicacy of this creature is revealed by its other commonly referred-to names: rice paper butterfly and tree nymph butterfly.

Number in exhibit: Hundreds each week.




Great mormon

Latin name: Papilio memnon

Range: Found from India through Malaysia and Indonesia

Wingspan: 41/2-51/2 inches

Signature traits: The male of this species is generally solid black on the upper part of its body, with contrasting metallic blue accents on its hind-wings. The females tend to display a variety of colors and patterns that emulate other more unappealing butterflies -- all to protect them from aggressive enemies. The coloration of some females can include tints of red and white on the wings.

Number in exhibit: Approximately 150 per week.




Autumn leaf butterfly

Latin name: Doleschallia bisaltide

Range: Found from Southeast Asia to Australia

Wingspan: 3 inches

Signature traits: This particular species is one of the great adapters, and users of protective camouflage as a survival mechanism. In some instances, this butterfly will flaunt the highly colorful orange tint of its upper wing surface. However, it can instantly look like an ordinary dead leaf (including exhibiting a dead leaf's brown-purple splotchiness and veinlike ribbing) when it folds up its wings, suspends itself upside down and leaves its underside exposed.

Number in exhibit: Approximately 50 per week; it doesn't normally receive many of these highly resourceful creatures.

  Comments