Our official opening on May 11, was planned to coincide with National Public Gardens Day, a celebration of public gardens around the country. The house was open from 10am-6pm and we featured an afternoon butterfly release inside the house. Prior to that, the butterfly house was unlocked and open to the public during April to view the early spring butterflies who nectared on the lilac bushes and other small flowers that had emerged with the early warm temperatures. The official last day of operation was Sunday, October 7.
A total of 22,448 people visited the house in this time, nearly 5,500 more than last season. This was largely due to an expansion of days and hours made possible by a greater volunteer base. Posted hours remained Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 5pm-dusk and Saturdays and Sundays from 10a-6p. Thanks to a volunteer group that continued growing in number throughout the season, the house was able to be scheduled open most weekday evenings and many daytime hours during the week as well. A total of 60 volunteers have recorded close to 3800 service hours in collecting butterflies, growing plants, raising livestock, watering, weeding, pruning, hosting tours, and working scheduled shifts, greeting and educating visitors. We had and have a great group of docents who love their work and who can’t wait to share their enthusiasm of Lepidoptera with others.
A few unwanted visitors this year were a variety of a dozen or so birds that found breaches in the netting of the house and were able to come in and dine for periods of time at our butterfly and caterpillar buffet. Plans are in the works to make some reinforcements for next year to keep unwanted visitors out.
Instar, our very hungry caterpillar who feeds on dollars and coins, filled up with donations this season. Thanks to Buck Keagy for this creative way of encouraging giving to the house. Additional revenue was generated from group tours. Also, thanks to all of the visitors whose donations contributed to the successful operation of the butterfly house.
We hosted approximately 17 private tours through the house and one off-site educational program at a local preschool. Over 1,000 children and adults participated in these educational tours. We also hosted two groups, one from Arkansas and one from Oklahoma, who have started native butterfly houses in their respective areas and who wanted to see our operation first-hand. Both groups were very grateful for the time, education, and ideas they received.
A reference handbook for docents was developed this year and three docent training meetings were held with Sarah Dewey and Dr. Chris Barnhart as instructors. All docents appreciate Kevin Firth’s email reports and pictures from his regular trips to conservation areas or from his observations in tending to the livestock he is rearing. Chris Barnhart also offers regular reports of interesting information throughout the year. Did you know that there are wasps small enough to lay eggs inside a butterfly’s egg?
In addition to the Butterfly Festival, many docents participated in two other events hosted by the Butterfly House: All or Mothing and Monarch Tagging and Release. Hosted by Dr. Bob and Barb Kipfer at their cabin, All or Mothing was held July 14. This was a new event we tried this year just for the docent group. After enjoying burgers and brats and waiting for the appropriate amount of darkness to set in, we armed ourselves with guidebooks and cameras and crowded around an illuminated sheet to observe and identify the many varieties. Our third annual Monarch Tagging was held on September 29 with 194 monarchs tagged and set free for their 1500 mile trip to central Mexico.
Dr. Bill Roston, designed and developed a new garden just south of the house called “The Butterfly Nursery Garden”. This garden will also feature nectar and host plants that support native butterflies and moths and will provide additional food sources for the thousands of caterpillars we feed each season. Many thanks for Mary Frances DiGirolamo and Sharon DeRubis for their efforts in raising over $4,000 by hosting a silent auction during the Butterfly Festival. This sum covered the landscaping expenses and enabled us to install an irrigation system in the garden and in the grassy area in front of the house.
Many thanks to Dr. Chris and Deb Barnhart. Without their time and expertise as curators of the house, what we have accomplished would be much, much more difficult if not impossible. We have come a long way since 2009 when Dr. Roston and Scott Cunningham were the only two docents. In 2013, we will keep building on the strong foundation they began.
Lisa Bakerink, Coordinator
Dr Bill Roston Native Butterfly House