Brookfield Zoo animal spotlight: Butterflies

Michael Cronin
Aggrego News Service | michael@aggrego.com
July 6 11:59 a.m.

We’ve got a monthly feature here called the “Brookfield Zoo animal spotlight.” Each month, we will feature one (or more) of Brookfield Zoo’s animals and give you some background information about the animal(s), its species, its family and its connection to the zoo!

Insect type: Butterflies

Arrival date: Late spring 2014

How long the butterflies will be at Brookfield Zoo: They will be on exhibit until September 1 (weather permitting).

Q. Give us a little information about Brookfield Zoo’s butterfly experience.

A. Brookfield Zoo’s butterflies exhibit is really an outdoor garden infused with “flying jewels.” Hundreds of butterflies featuring a variety of North American species fly around their screened home, up close, easy for guests to view. Watch them flutter past their pond and land on the beautiful plants. Guests can even take a peek in the pupa room and watch them transform from pupa to caterpillar to butterfly.

Q. Can you touch the butterflies?

A. Well, touching a butterfly is never a good idea, but that doesn’t mean they can’t touch you! Butterflies are attracted to bright colors and still objects. If you stand still in the butterflies exhibit, you may pick up a friend or two. Sorry, they can’t go home with you, so the zoo’s staff will look you over before you leave the butterflies’ home to make sure you don’t have any stowaways.

Q. Is there really a difference between a butterfly and a moth?

A. Absolutely, but sometimes it can be hard to tell. Moths are nocturnal, meaning they are active at night. Butterflies are diurnal, which means they are active mainly during the day but also night. So that comparison doesn’t help you tell them apart. If you get close enough (again, without touching), you should be able to see subtle differences. Butterflies are usually more colorful than moths are. Butterflies have clubbed antennae, while moths’ antennae look like miniature feathers. Moths also have a plump, fuzzy body when compared to butterflies. The easiest way to tell the difference is by watching them rest. Butterflies land and rest with their wings folded along their back. Moths, on the other hand, rest with their wings spread out.

Q. What types of butterflies are in the exhibit?

A. While the exact number and species of butterflies in the exhibit can change daily, you will be able to see swallowtails, mourning cloaks, sulphurs, and everyone’s favorite: monarchs.

Q. Why are monarchs so special?

A. It helps that they are very beautiful, but they also have an amazing life. Monarchs are the only known insect to migrate internationally, traveling as far as 3,000 miles annually from Nova Scotia, Canada, to the mountainous areas of Mexico City, Mexico. Monarch caterpillars eat only milkweed, so their migration route must contain easily accessible milkweed plants.

To learn more about the Butterflies! exhibit at Brookfield Zoo, go to www.CZS.org or like Brookfield Zoo on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/BrookfieldZoo.

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