Butterflies at Briar Bush Starts Today

The butterfly house at Briar Bush Nature Center opens Friday; the moths are not happy.


If you’re a fan of having insects flying around you, or even crawling on you, hit up Briar Bush Nature Center starting Friday.

OK … that sounded awful.

If you like interesting, colorful butterflies, the butterfly house opens Friday.

That’s better.

The wooden structure located just outside the nature center, will be filled with monarch and painted lady butterflies, many of which were donated by local schools.  

Ehren Gross, Briar Bush environmental educator and butterfly house coordinator, said the butterfly house first opened five years ago, and has been growing in popularity since.

Gross said the school district’s elementary schools have butterflies on their curriculum, and source them from Carolina Biological Supply Co. They’re captive-bred. But instead of releasing the butterflies into the wild, they’re donated to Briar Bush. 

“There’s huge ethical questions about releasing captive-bred butterflies into the wild,” Gross said. Some scientists say they can skew results; they’re kind of like an invasive species.”

Also, in the Briar Bush house, the butterflies tend to live a bit longer than they would in the wild — this allows the nature center to teach visitors about the lifecycle of butterflies, Gross said.

“On average, painted lady butterflies stay alive 2-and-a-half weeks in nature, Gross said. “With that, they’re susceptible to getting hit by cars and birds eating them. So having them in the house kind of protects them. We have nectar plants and try to have them reproduce and lay eggs on the host plants.”

Gross, who has been with Briar Bush Nature Center since 2009, said he’s relatively new to the world of butterflies.

“I became interested when my boss made me the coordinator,” Gross said with a laugh. “But I started fresh and learned about them and have a lot of respect for butterflies — I did this by visiting other butterfly houses in the city and other nature centers in the state.”

There are a few rules when entering the butterfly house. First, make sure the outside door is closed before opening the other inside door — it’s kind of like an anteroom for keeping the butterflies in. And secondly, butterflies may land on you, but don’t touch them, as they’re fragile.

Gross said in South America, it’s a sign of good luck when a butterfly lands on you, so soak the luck in while you can.

The butterfly house is open during regular Briar Bush Nature Center hours: Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m.

Admission is free to Abington residents; $3 for adult visitors and $2 for children. 

For more information on Briar Bush programs, visit briarbush.org


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