Butterflies and the Serengeti

A few days ago I was in Superior, Arizona to co-lead the Boyce Thompson Arboretum’s final butterfly walk of the season with friend Adrianne Grimaldi, education director at Butterfly Wonderland, a conservatory style butterfly exhibit in Scottsdale. After the walk I gave a talk in BTA’s lecture room, presenting data from Butterfly Ridge’s effort to create habitat and boost our southeast Ohio butterfly population. I pointed out that many of the strategies we employ at Butterfly Ridge can be used elsewhere, the only difference is plant selection.

At the end of the talk a member of the audience asked the question, “So, what do you think of Butterfly Wonderland?” And the questioner wasn’t Adrianne! In fact, she had to leave directly after the walk to return to the Valley. I am so glad the question was raised, not only for the benefit of those in the audience, but also those of you who will read this post.

My answer went something like this . . .

If you want to see a lion, where do you go? Well, either you go to a zoo or the Serengeti. Butterfly Wonderland is the zoo, Butterfly Ridge is the Serengeti.

Not everybody can get all the way to the Serengeti, or are afraid that they will become a delicious appetizer for those lions, so they go to the zoo instead. What the zoo provides is a more convenient, perhaps less scary, way to observe really cool animals. In the case of Butterfly Wonderland, they are able to showcase beautiful tropical butterflies that most people will never get the chance to see.

At Butterfly Ridge, the experience is much different; not necessarily better or worse, but definitely different. At Butterfly Ridge, not only are you seeing these awesome little creatures, but you are getting to see how the butterfly interacts with its natural habitat. You will see the deer, spiders, salamanders and other creatures that share the habitat with the butterflies. You get to see visually how you can tinker with your home landscape to create habitat. At a zoo, the habitat is fabricated and it can be very difficult to visualize how to recreate that fabrication at home.

In 2019, Butterfly Ridge is going to consciously embrace the Serengeti-effect! We will approach each interaction with our visitors as an opportunity to take them into the wild with a spirit of exploration, observation, and wonder. We will no longer offer guided tours, but we will offer safaris twice daily!

We hope you will join us in 2019 to take part in the unpredictable excitement of the safari!

 photo by Chris Marino

photo by Chris Marino