Behind the Scenes of Festival of Butterflies 2013

The 2013 Festival of Butterflies begins on Friday, August 2nd at 9 a.m.  Powell Gardens staff have been in preparation for this largest of our festivals.  Here’s a preview and some of the behind the scenes peeks of what it takes to put our Butterfly conservatory display together.

Brett Budach, Festival of Butterflies intern, holds one of our first Atlas Moths to emerge.  We received over 120 cocoons of this largest of the world’s moths (though this is a small male!).  Our latest shipment of Atlas Moths had Thailand as the country of origin.  You will see live Atlas Moths in the conservatory and will enjoy an even closer encounter with these magnificent creatures if you sign up for Family Night: An evening with butterflies on August 3rd.

Here Brett glues Morpho chrysalises to dowels that will be placed in USDA approved emergence cases.  You can see 3 sticks of glued chrysalises in the foreground drying before they’re placed in the their cases.  All of this happens behind the scenes in our USDA approved receiving room which is not open to the public.

Butterflies need humidity and that has created a fog in the conservatory as Horticulturist Anne Wildeboor installs some plants on our cork tree.  We transform the conservatory into a butterfly paradise with the feel of a sunny opening in the rainforest.

Anne Wildeboor, Horticulturist Seasonal Displays and Events, has designed the butterfly display conservatory using many tropical plants like our huge ‘Freydek’ Elephant Ears (Alocasia) which help create the experience of a tropical rainforest when you visit the conservatory.

This year we added some additional palms from Florida as Brett and Sarah Sommerkamp (Gardener) showcase.  These palms are fresh off the truck and soon to be unwrapped.

We also received many new Bromeliads for the conservatory display shown here with Donna Covell (Horticulturist Greenhouse Production).  We do grow almost all the plants for the conservatory display in and around the greenhouses but added some more dramatic palms, 100+ new brilliant bromeliads, and colorful new Philodendrons to help create a tropical paradise in this year’s conservatory butterfly display.

What’s this?  A test tube of beneficial bugs we received for release in the conservatory.  Pesticides are NOT an option when displaying butterflies so we use beneficial insects to help control pests in the conservatory.  These are Mealybug Destroyers (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri).

We release a bag full of 4,500 Ladybugs (Hippodamia convergens) into the conservatory to help eat any and all aphid pests.

This card is full of Green Lacewing (Chrysoperia rufilabris) eggs another beneficial insect that controls all sorts of pests from mealybugs to scale, spider mites and whiteflies.

Here’s blister packs of nature’s control of whiteflies – whiteflies are a severe pest of lantana one of the butterflies favorite nectar plants.  Inside each is a mix of 4 whitefly parasites so you will see these in all our display’s lantana trees.

Here a Zebra Heliconian from Florida has emerged in our emergence case for domestic butterflies.  You can see unhatched chrysalises to its left — quite a wild-looking creature!

Yes!  Our Blue Morphos are also hatching well and the favorite butterfly in the display.  We have received almost 200 chrysalises of Blue Morphos so far and will have a good “flock” on display by Friday with more chrysalises arriving this week.

So that’s a peek into our Festival of Butterflies Conservatory Display of Florida and Tropical butterflies and moths.  We hope you come to experience the miraculous metamorphosis of the butterfly and have a close encounter with a Blue Morpho.  The butterfly conservatory display opens at 9 a.m. on Friday, August 2nd.  The butterflies will remain in the conservatory until Sunday August 18th.  Butterflies from Florida are then shipped to Botanica in Wichita and the Tropical butterflies go to Sophia Sachs Butterfly House in Chesterfield, MO.