It’s Wild Out There!
Slowly and silently, the brave expedition team creeps around the corner. We must be very careful not to startle the wild animal, or the whole mission will be lost. There is no sound but a deep and rumbling buzzing that seems to fill our ears. We just may be driven insane by the intense and unrelenting murmur of our quarry, until one hardy soul pipes up, “Look at the size of that bumblebee!”
Granted, our definition of “wildlife” in the Butterfly Pavilion gardens may be a little unconventional, but the horticulture staff and volunteers take the idea of “habitat” very seriously in our gardens. The Discovery Garden and other flowerbeds around the facility are sites where plants, people and wildlife come together for mutual benefit. Selected plants may provide food for butterflies or nesting sites for native bees and birds, while also allowing for experiential learning for visitors of all ages. A few times a week, Butterfly Pavilion staff and volunteers guide visitors into this wild and mysterious part of the facility to provide an up-close look at our garden wildlife.
In the Discovery Garden, visitors may visit the Habitat Garden and explore flowerbeds specific to certain garden inhabitants; home gardeners may then learn about what to plant in order to provide habitat for butterflies, bees, birds and moths. We keep close track of which pollinator species visit which plant; our gardens support over at least ten bee species and over a dozen butterfly species. This year has been an amazing year for our Western Two-Tailed Swallowtail butterfly (big and yellow and hard to miss!) and the Eastern Black Swallowtail (awesome caterpillars with a super-smelly defense!), but visitors also enjoy seeing the silver-spotted skippers, painted ladies, blues and sulphurs that flit among the blooms.
Our Big Dry Creek Nature Trail is a more naturalistic habitat for native invertebrates, along with some of our local mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. This winter, this remnant of shortgrass prairie frequently provided a rest stop for hungry bald eagles, looking for prairie dogs. During the summer months, we’ve documented beavers, coyotes, bull snakes, chorus frogs, Swainson’s hawks, great horned owls, American kestrels, black-crowned night herons and great blue herons, along with the thriving population of black-tailed prairie dogs. We help to maintain this open space by removing weeds and planting native plants.
We at the Butterfly Pavilion believe strongly that habitat gardens can be one small solution to replace the resources that our native butterflies and other animals have lost due to habitat destruction, pollution and invasive species. For that reason, we conduct horticultural research and lead educational programs that bring children and adults into these lively places. Our gardens and nature trail are also open every day for our visitors to explore, and the horticulture staff and volunteers encourage you strongly to come and visit them soon. Who knows what wild thing you’ll find?
Posted by Amy Yarger