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Butterflies with personalities - Cara Smith

Posted by Sara Draycott on 04 Mar 2013 at 12:01 PM

After working with the butterflies for three years I have definitely decided that butterflies have personalities and noticed that certain species exhibit certain characteristics. Some show off and are very visible flying around and landing on people as they walk around whereas others seem to disappear as soon as you release them and can only be spotted by those with a keen eye. I will share with you some of my observations.

The Malayan lacewings (above) are very melodramatic and like to play dead. This characteristic is not unique to the Malayan lacewing – other butterflies also use it as a defence strategy when they are scared but I have found the Malayan lacewings to be the worst culprits. After removal from the emergence cage most of the butterflies wiggle their legs eager to grab onto a twig or stem to hang from. However lacewings often are totally still and refuse to wiggle their legs or move at all and even when placed down feet first on a hand or feeding station they will fall onto their side apparently lifeless and very convincing. They have certainly fooled me several times – and also embarrassed me – as I am sure visitors are convinced I am trying to put out a dead butterfly. However, visitors also are taken in by their dramatics – I have had a few visitors inform me there is a dead butterfly which when I go to remove it miraculously returns to life.


The Clipper butterflies (pictured above) are very active.  They are fast and even soon after emergence when most of the butterflies are happy to hang fairly still for a while the Clipper is on a mission to get out and fly. I find this makes them one of the harder butterflies to spot as they rarely sit still.


Being the largest butterflies in our display the Owls (picuted wings open, above, wings closed, below) are also the easiest to see. They very much like their rotten fruit and so feeding stations are a good place to spot them. They are also quite frisky and can often be seen flying around in pairs doing a courtship dance. If you look under a banana leaf in the Tropical Zone you more than likely find some eggs belonging to the Owl butterfly.


This is just a taste of what I have discovered while working with the butterflies. The show is now over for 2013, but I'm sure they'll be back next year when you can come and discover the butterfly’s personalities for  yourself.

Until we next invite you to visit our display of tropical butterflies, you can find out more about how to attract butterflies such as peacock, small tortoiseshell,and comma to your own garden, and discover some of the plants we recommend as being Perfect for Pollinators.



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