PacSci Perspectives

Painted Ladies In Our Tropical Butterfly House

by | May 26, 2016

This article is republished as a reminder to educators that Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House is a safe place to release Painted Lady and other species of butterflies after your classroom experience.

Our typical pupae shipments do not include Painted Lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui) although a lot of people ask if we have them because they are most often the species of butterfly used in classroom butterfly kits. Occasionally however, Painted Lady butterflies end up in our Tropical Butterfly House. Here is one story of how they found their way in!

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Last October, Horticulture volunteer Deirdre called us because her second graders and another second grade class had just completed their butterfly unit at Parkwood Elementary School. Their studies concluded with over 40 Painted Lady butterflies in flight cages. Although it is true that you can care for butterflies in the flight cage from a typical emergence kit, there is not very much room for them to fly. As a result, many people opt to release their butterflies outdoors making sure sure the species is not invasive to the region before doing so. As a volunteer at Pacific Science Center, Deirdre knew that October weather in Seattle would not be optimal for such a release. The Parkwood Elementary Painted Lady butterflies were in need of a good home, so she got in touch with the Animal Care department. We arranged a release for the classroom’s butterflies into our Tropical Butterfly House.

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Deirdre dropped them off herself, and with the assistance of Animal Caretakers Lauren and Katie, released each and every one into the house. Her students had each raised a butterfly, from caterpillar to pupa to butterfly, so Deirdre knew how attached they had become to their butterflies; each butterfly had a name. In order to celebrate their release, and give the kids a chance to say goodbye, Deirdre asked us to take pictures of their first moments in our Tropical Butterfly House.

When Deirdre showed her class the pictures from their release, they were so excited:

“That’s Turbo there! On that fruit!” one kid exclaimed.

“And that’s Kate! I recognize her!” shouted another.

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The Painted Ladies from Parkwood Elementary School spent the rest of their lives in our Tropical Butterfly House and some of the kids even got a chance to come visit them.

If you ever end up with Painted Lady butterflies (or other species) in the winter, call us a week before you would like to drop them off and they could live in our Tropical Butterfly House too. Another solution: wait to start your butterfly kit when the weather is warm and dry, so that you can release your Painted Ladies into the wild.

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