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Going through the photos I took at the Florida Natural History Museum’s Butterfly Rainforest Monday is blowing my mind. Sure, I have been here before and I have even seen a good many of these species in the wild on my various travels, but it doesn’t matter. Wonder is wonder. I can never become jaded when it comes to natural beauty. The colors, patterns, and strength juxtaposed with fragility is completely awe inspiring. Then, throw in learning some new tidbits about the order Lepidoptera and voila, the perfect balance of science and sentiment making for the perfect ecoliterate learning experience!!

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Check out that proboscis!

Butterflies are a great introduction to the insect class. They are non-threatening and so unique that I dedicated an entire subchapter in my book to them and can’t think of one person who cringes at the thought of a butterfly. Getting up close and personal with these “scale winged” (Greek translation of Lepidoptera) insects will make even the most skiddish person smile and begin to connect with their natural world.

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The yellow-green eyes on this one blow my mind!

Did you know that butterflies drink water? I used to think that they only drank nectar, but on a trip to Leu Gardens in Orlando a few years back I learned about butterfly “puddling” stations. These are places where male butterflies can sip water from damp sand or mud to absorb minerals needed for reproduction. If you are creating a butterfly garden, be sure to include a puddling area. You don’t have to worry about the females, they will drink dew directly off plants in the morning.

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Interpretive sign inside the Butterfly Rainforest

Another very interesting butterfly fact I learned from one of the docents was that in some butterflies, you can tell the sex based on wing patterns. Monarchs are especially easy to tell. The males all have a little black dot on the top side of each of their lower wings. These are pheromone sacs used to attract female monarchs.

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See them just out from the body toward his far end (or abdomen if you want to get technical).

Certain butterflies are adapted to eat fruit. These fruit eaters are often tropical species and those not adapted ignore the fruit all together.

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These are the famed Blue Morpho butterflies snacking on bananas. Their brilliant iridescent blue scales are only visible on the top sides. This helps them to hide when resting or eating. They look very much like the rotten fruit!

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This Tree Nymph butterfly drinking from a red penta kept my 6 year old nephew mesmerized! We could see the proboscis perfectly as he or she sipped away.

If you are feeling like you need a wonder boost or find yourself with some free time this spring and summer, explore the possibilities in your area for butterfly experiences at natural history museums, nature centers, and botanical gardens. Then, use that inspiration to create butterfly inspired artwork, poetry, homemade field guides, or even to plant a butterfly garden of your own! Your local Master Gardeners or Extension Agents can be very helpful in helping you pick out both nectar and host plants that are most beneficial for the butterflies that inhabit and migrate through your area. And remember, always grow organic because insecticides kill butterflies too!

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The array of colors on this grouping of nectar plants is stunning. I am working to create an area like this in my own garden.

Butterflies have been inspiring humans across the globe for centuries and have rich scientific, cultural, artistic, historical, and literary  stories. Open to letting them provide you with wonder and amazement too. They are happy to oblige!

Seeds to Sprout:

Butterflies have been a feature in Asian art for centuries. Learn to make origami butterflies

A light look at the appearance of butterflies in western art history

Not for kids, but an interesting article on the controversy surrounding the Hirst butterfly piece shown in the link above.

A very unique creative movement lesson plan from the Kennedy Center on the butterfly lifecycle.

A bit on butterfly symbolism

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Butterfly harmony. 3 different types sharing peacefully place and space.

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