Butterflies Fluttering Again At The Botanical Gardens

Zebras, southern whites, red admirals, Julia, buckeyes and Monarchs are just a few of the butterfly species that emerged this week inside the Butterfly House at the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens, 641 Struthers Ave.

Butterflies were absent from the greenhouse for nearly three months while the botanical gardens waited for a new permit from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Throughout the year botanical gardens executive director Dana Hobika places orders for about 50 butterflies a week.

Butterflies have a life span between two and four weeks.

“Some die within a week,” she said.

Visitors cheered and clapped when Hobika hung the 100 butterfly pupae last weekend.

“The public missed them,” she said.

Volunteer butterfly caretaker Jeff Foster sprays the chrysalises to keep them moist. The butterflies like a 60-80 percent humidity, Foster said.

“It makes it easier for them to emerge,” he said.

Once the butterflies bust out of their cocoons, their wings must dry before they can start flying around. Foster then captures them and releases them into the Butterfly House. The botanical gardens depends on volunteers like Foster to help with operations there.

Cost of keeping the greenhouse supplied with butterflies is $1,000 a month, Hobika said. The botanical gardens receives no city or county money and depends on grants and donations to operate and maintain the nonprofit organization.

To help with the cost of maintaining the Butterfly House the nonprofit organization has launched an “Adopt a yard” campaign.

“A square yard costs $4 a year to maintain,” Hobika said. “We have over 62,000 square yards that ends up costing $250,000 to maintain.”

“It will help keep the doors open and the butterflies coming,” Hobika said.

People who “adopt a yard” will receive free passes to the gardens.

Entrance to the botanical gardens is free to the public every first Sunday of the month. Cost is $5 for adults; $3 for children 12 and under, $4 for seniors, and free for children 3 and under. A family membership is $40. An individual membership is $25. Membership to Western Colorado Botanical Gardens allows free entrance to the Denver Botanical Gardens and other botanical gardens around the country, Hobika said.

The botanical gardens is open during the winter Tuesdays through Fridays from noon to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Hobika said she hopes to add moths to the mix.

“They’re beautiful,” she said. “Moths are active at different times than when butterflies are active.”

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