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Having a "nose" around the butterflies at Wisley - with Cara Smith

Posted by Sara Draycott on 22 Jan 2013 at 11:40 AM

The first weekend of the event went really well with many of the pupae we stuck last week emerging. 

They have continued to hatch out all week and we have been regularly releasing them into the Tropical Zone of the Glasshouse. I had about 50 newly emerged butterflies to release this morning alone. Each species takes a different length of time to emerge. In general the larger ones such as the owl butterfly and the Blue Morpho seem to take longer and may not emerge until up to two weeks after we receive them, whereas the smaller ones start to emerge within a couple of days.



Many visitors ask what happens to the butterflies when the event comes to an end. Well - I am pleased to report that we don’t have to catch them all in a net. All the species we have at Wisley live as adult butterflies for 2-3 weeks at most. Therefore the butterflies live out their natural life in the Glasshouse. We reduce the number of pupae bought in towards the end of the event and therefore fewer are released during the last week. Inevitably there will still be butterflies in the Tropical Zone for a few weeks after the event finishes but numbers will slowly decline.


After blogging last week Rachel de Thame visited the glasshouse to do a photo shoot to promote the butterfly event. Photographers are always quite specific about the picture they want and it usually involves a butterfly on the end of somebody’s nose. Last year that was my nose. This year however I was glad to pass this task to Rachel de Thame. The perfect photograph is a butterfly with open wings on the end of the nose with the owner of the nose smiling and looking at the butterfly. Easy you might think. However butterflies are not always obliging and many of them are downright camera shy. I spent a morning trying to find willing butterflies, most of which would fly straight off or immediately start journeying up the nose toward the forehead, while keeping wings firmly in the closed position (fair enough as most of them have much better camouflage when their wings are closed - and If I was placed on the end of a giant’s nose I may try to keep myself as inconspicuous as possible.)

Gently blowing on a butterfly can encourage them to open their wings so there was a lot of blowing going on amidst clicks and flashes from cameras and shouts of “eyes to the butterfly Rachel” and “big smile”. Eventually we found an extrovert of the butterfly world and the photographers got their shot. Thank you to Rachel and the obliging butterfly – both of whom were very patient.


When I went home that night and my partner asked me what I did at work today it was quite fun to reply “I put a butterfly on the end of Rachel de Thame’s nose”. 


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