THE BUTTERFLY HOUSE
Walk through the doors of the half-circle, plastic covered building, and it feels like
you just walked into a rainforest. If the over-head misters are on, the rainforest
simulation is multiplied. Wall to wall plants, vines climbing up the walls and across the
ceiling, color splashes throughout, and the hot humidity overwhelm your senses. Then you
see it something colorful floats through the air, right in front of your face! As
you move your attention from this floating color and focus into the room, you see
different colors, flitting all about, moving from one plant to another; small collections
of many colors moving rhythmically throughout the rainforest. An inner tranquillity fills
your body, you step through the door, and hear "Hi, welcome to the butterfly
house," and force your gaze away from the mesmerizing scene to see a smiling face of
the volunteer inside. You are about to experience the Panhandle Butterfly House.
This is the fifth year for the butterfly house. Its open from May to September,
and is run totally by volunteers with donations from its visitors. There are no funds or
grants from the city or state, no paid employees, and no permanent staff. I
volunteered last summer for the first time, and will volunteer again. I tell the visitors
it runs on donations and love. There is a director who started the whole thing. He
obtained permission from the city of Navarre to build on city owned property. When it was
built, there were only 2 other butterfly houses in the country. Since it has been built,
the city has created a great park in the surrounding property, containing a large duck
pond, childrens park, and nature walk. Many festivals and other community events are
held in this park, which brings in many visitors to the butterfly house. People from all
over the world have signed the guest book.
There is no admission, just a 10-gallon aquarium by the door for guests to put their
donations in. Many people just throw in a buck for their entire group, but some will
donate 20 or more dollars. The nature walk is paved in bricks, and the butterfly house
sells tax deductible bricks that are personalized with names, dates, etc.
These bricks are set in the walk in places specified by the donors. Butterflies,
caterpillars, and eggs are either donated by locals who love the butterfly house, or
bought from Florida butterfly farmers. Most of the donations are spent on the butterflies.
Every butterfly in the butterfly house is a native Florida butterfly. You wont
see any blue Morphos or other exotics from the rainforest. Most of our butterflies are
locals, from the Florida panhandle. What you will see are Zebra Longwings, Malachites,
Gulf Fritillaries, Sulphurs, Painted Ladies, Monarchs, Queens, and Soldiers. Then there
are the many Swallowtails: Giant, Palamedes, Black, Tiger (black and yellow forms),
Pipevines, and Spicebush. There is a nursery area where you can see up close
all the caterpillars and chrysalis that are raised here.
Volunteers do their best to answer all the questions. These are not Leptridoptrists,
Biologists, or Botanists. They are just plain people who love the butterflies. Many are
people who visited the butterfly house and enjoyed it so much they volunteered. They want
to learn more about the butterflies, just like the visitors, and dont have all the
answers, but love sharing experiences and hearing others adventures.
My favorite part about volunteering (besides the butterflies) is the kids. Watching
their face as they see a beautiful butterfly up close is a site to see. The unbridled joy
of these youngsters as they reach out a little pudgy hand to touch the buerfi
and their obvious surprise when it flies away just makes my day. They try to look at
everything at once, and stand in the path and clap and giggle in excitement. To see such
freedom in the spirits of children in the butterfly house makes it all come together.
Children and butterflies are a combination that cant be beat!
This butterfly house isnt about making money. Its a learning garden; a
place for people from all over the world to raise their awareness about a
butterflies place in our own gardens. The gardens grow inside the house as well as
outside, all around the building. Butterflies reside inside and outside. There are many
volunteers outside, trying their best to get inside. Nobody is here because
they have to be all are here because its where they are happy. Even the
butterflies; they come because they love it.
Its obvious that this butterfly house holds a special place in my heart. I love
working there as much as I love visiting. Many times, I take my son to feed the ducks in
the pond behind, and we always stop to see whats fluttering around. The species
within the house depends on whats flying at the time, and is constantly changing.
Sometimes there will be many different species, and sometimes, just a few. Its
always fun to see what caterpillars show up too. These are usually creepy crawlys brought
in by the local people, caterpillars they find on their trees or in the gardens. Once, we
got some Oleander caterpillars, and it took us awhile to figure out what they were,
because the person who brought them didnt know what bush they were on. You never
know what youll discover when you go!
The Panhandle Butterfly House is in Navarre, Florida on HWY 98. Navarre is in the
panhandle, about 20 miles east of Pensacola. Its right by Navarre beach, the
best-kept secret in Florida, if you happen to be here on vacation please stop by and see.
If you want more instructions or more information, please email me.
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The art of companion planting Mar 2000
What the heck is a host plant? Feb 2000
What is a butterfly garden? Jan 2000
Next month's article???? Any ideas????????