A ROAD TRIP TO BUTTERFLY WORLD IN FLORIDA, ONE MAN’S “HOBBY GONE WILD”

It has been said that you “get what you pay for.” Today we traveled to Butterfly World in Coconut Creek, Florida which is about two and a half hours away from where we live. I had wanted to go to visit there for sometime now, so we decided that today was the day. Butterfly World is the first butterfly house in the United States and the largest in the world. Right here in Florida. Right here in our state. This place is extremely well-kept and has been in operation for over thirty years on over three acres of butterfly aviaries. The website says that Butterfly World is “one man’s hobby gone wild”. How could we go wrong visiting one man’s obsession? Evidently as the story goes, the proprietor, Ronald Boender, was an electrical engineer with an interest in butterflies since he was young. He started raising them in small numbers in his home yard after retiring and originally opened a commercial butterfly company in 1984. Butterfly World was opened in 1988 and serves as a beautiful butterfly attraction as well as a research facility. The admission is rather pricey at $32.50 for adults and seniors, $22.50 for children from age 3-11 (children under 2 are free). Currently, there is an internet special of 50% off until June 8 for all those who mention it at the ticket counter. They also offer AAA discounts of 15% and a military discount of 25% the rest of the year. For an extra dollar, we received a butterfly guide, which described the varieties of butterflies we might encounter there, along with some butterfly education. This was worth the extra dollar in my opinion.

When we first walked into Butterfly World, we encountered a research room, which had an audio explaining a bit about the butterfly life cycle.

Walking into the first butterfly aviary, we were greeted by three beautiful blue Morpho butterflies, which are among my favorite kinds of butterflies. Their beautiful color and large size takes my breath away.

There were butterflies EVERYWHERE we looked, flying around us, near us, and in front of us. Lots and lots of butterflies in a well taken care of and well-managed butterfly house.

I loved the butterfly education on the wall plaques and in our purchased butterfly guide.

Malachite butterfly with beautiful green and black coloring

“Happiness is like a butterfly. The more you chase it, the more it will elude, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder. ” – Henry David Thoreau

We were so very fortunate to have butterflies land on us, including the beautiful blue Morpho butterfly (shown here on my husband’s back with his wings folded up). The bottom of most butterfly wings is not nearly as colorful as the top of their wings.

The blue Morpho butterfly had always been my favorite butterfly, but now I’m not sure. The large Australian Cairns Birdwing Butterfly took my breath away, as it looks like someone colored him with a whole box of crayons on both the top of its wings as well as the bottom of the wings where butterflies are not usually so colorful. Of course, though, the male is more colorful than the female, a common trait in the animal kingdom. This butterfly is one of the largest Australian butterflies, measuring about five to six inches across from wing to wing.

Map of Butterfly World from the back of the Visitor’s Guide

In addition to the butterfly aviaries, Butterfly World has a garden center with butterfly host plants for sale, a lorikeet habitat, and an insect museum which featured some fascinating insects such as scorpions, trantulas, large centipedes, and cock roaches. There is also a beautiful butterfly museum as well.

Most visitors spend about two to three hours at Butterfly World, and we were no exception. Just watching the dance of the zebra longtail butterflies (pictured in previous photos as the black and whitish yellow striped butterflies) or the multitude of butterflies fly to and fro was a fascinating experience. If I lived closer, I would definitely purchase an annual pass (for $70.00). Our ticket included complimentary cold bottles of water, which we appreciated on this hot day, and there is normally a snack bar in operation. Unfortunately the snack bar (with ice cream novelties) was closed at the time of our visit because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Upon perusing the gift shop, I saw this sign:

Life IS beautiful. Life is good. Carpe diem, friends…………..

LESSONS LEARNED FROM A BUTTERFLY AND A TRIP TO FAIRFIELD TROPICAL BOTANICAL GARDEN IN MIAMI

Gulf Fritilary butterfly

Butterflies have always given me reason to pause what I was doing in order to enjoy their beauty. They are such symbols for endurance, change, hope, and life, and their graceful flight is such a sight. We would do well to keep them in mind as we endure our current global pandemic situation.

One of the most beautiful butterflies I have ever seen was at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami, which is normally open from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM daily but has been closed recently because of the pandemic. However, on May 6, the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden will open for limited times during the day and will offer guests two-hour visits in order to keep the numbers of guests low at any given time for social distancing. They have a butterfly conservatory that houses such amazing butterflies. The Morpho butterfly, a bright big blue butterfly with wingspan of about five to eight inches, normally lives in South America, Mexico and Central America and is one of the largest butterflies in the world. It was here that I saw my first Morpho butterfly, and I marveled at its size and beauty.

Blue colored butterflies are said to be symbolic of healing, joy and happiness and are also seen by some rain forest natives as a “wish granters.” At Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, one can see the butterflies up close, and it is magical when they land on your shoulder unexpectedly. Legend has it when a butterfly follows you around, it means you have something in your life that you need to address. If it lands on you, legend tells us it may mean we will undergo some type of wonderful transformation or growth in our lives, some big change might happen, or something new or refreshing might happen in our lives. Some people even think that a Guardian Angel might be sending you a message or a deceased love one might be making their presence known to you when a butterfly lands on you. I’m not sure about the validity of those legends, but it surely is a peaceful and unexpected moment, filled with joy, whenever a butterfly lands on me. It is more likely, though, that the butterfly lands on you for salt from your skin, scientists tell us.

tranquility on the grounds at Fairfield Tropical Botanic Garden

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is a wonderful place to see butterflies, as butterflies are released into the wild twice a day, an extraordinary experience. Beyond the butterflies, you can take a forty-five minute narrated tram ride around the eighty-three acre gardens to see some beautiful plants and trees.

narrated tram ride (credit:Fairfield)

This time of year the Brunfelsia, the Tahitian Gardenia, the Fried Egg Tree, Frangipani Vine, Siam Rose Ginger (in the Tropical Plant Conservatory and Rare Plant House), and many other beautiful flowers are blooming there. This is a great place to take a book, find a quiet spot, and read a little while or sketch in a sketchbook. Of course, simply meandering about the property is a great way to spend some time there, too.

fried egg tree (credit:Fairfield)

rainbow colored eucalyptus tree

closeup of rainbow colored eucalyptus bark (credit:Fairfield)

On a recent trip to a National Park, I picked up a bookmark about butterflies that caught my eye. This bookmark called “Advice From a Butterfly” (By YourTrueNature.com and written by Ilan Shamir) reads……

“Let your true colors show

Take yourself lightly

Look for the sweetness in life

Take time to smell the flowers

Catch a breeze

Treat yourself like a monarch.”

Life is good; “take yourself lightly and look for the sweetness in life”. Think about the butterfly and the healing, joy, and happiness it represents when you think of our future after the pandemic. I hope a butterfly lands on your shoulder soon, if for no reason other than for the magic moment it brings.

Carpe Diem, friends……………get out there and live life well.