Meijer Gardens spans world with Butterflies in Bloom


Meijer Gardens’ annual butterflies exhibit features thousands of exotic species. Courtesy Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Exotic butterflies from around the world are spreading their wings at Frederik Meijer Gardens with the opening of the annual Butterflies in Bloom exhibit.

The popular exhibit runs from March 1 to April 30 and will include thousands of butterflies from more than 40 species. Butterflies included in the exhibit are native to Africa, Asia, South America and Central America.

This year’s exhibit will highlight the flight patterns of the butterflies. The Gardens notes that while their movements might seem random or chaotic, in reality each species has a distinct flight pattern that aids the butterflies in selecting mates, locating food and avoiding predators.

“At first glance, it’s easy to become lost in the quantity and color of the butterflies,” said Steve LaWarre, Meijer Gardens' director of horticulture. “But once you stop to watch them individually, you’ll begin to notice all kinds of different flight patterns and will have a greater appreciation for their diversity.”

Information provided by the Gardens notes, “Swallowtails are known for their strength and speed in flight with wings that span two inches or more. Male butterflies of this genus use air currents for ‘hill-topping,’ spiraling upward to the top of a hill to attract females. Longwings use slow and direct flight to keep them in small areas while foraging for nectar. The genus Morpho uses their large wings for catching and gliding on air currents. Generally, they display bouncy, erratic flight patterns, but shift to a quick zigzag pattern when dodging predators.”

In addition to watching the butterflies in motion, attendees also can view butterflies as they emerge from their cocoons in the Butterfly Bungalow or visit the Caterpillar Room, also known as the Seasonal Display Greenhouse, to see Monarch caterpillars feeding on milkweed plants and forming chrysalides.

Special activities during the exhibit include: The Butterfly Ballet, which will take place at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 2, and Saturday, March 16, and includes children from the Grand Rapids Ballet Junior Company mimicking the movements of the butterflies through dance.

On Tuesday nights the extensive nightlife of the butterflies will be on display — until the butterflies’ 9 p.m. curfew. Flashlights are encouraged for Tuesday Night Lights.

Special children’s activities will also be available throughout the duration of the exhibit.

This is the 18th year the Gardens has offered the butterfly exhibit, which is housed in its five-story Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory.

The exhibit is a favorite of visitors and it attracts more than 150,000 spectators from across the country each year.

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