Shippee Family Eye Care Butterfly House
The Butterfly House will reopen in June.
This exhibit, like the butterflies themselves, changes with the weather. There are some species that arrive as pupae, and we wait for them to emerge as butterflies before releasing them in the Butterfly House. Some species may produce eggs and go through a new generation (or two) during the summer. We’ll do our best to nurture them with a varity of host plants that give them sources of food and places to lay eggs.
Depending on the species, butterflies live only a few weeks. Most of our butterflies live their entire (short) adult lives in the butterfly house. The butterfly house has all of the necessary nectar and feed plants so that butterflies can lay eggs and those larvae can eventually metamorphose into butterflies. Within the bounds of a human created system, we try to create an environment that allows the butterfly life cycle to self perpetuate during the course of the summer.
Our Butterfly House allows you to observe every stage of their life cycle throughout the summer. While this butterfly house is not a conservation effort, per se, it is an exhibit, which we hope will encourage our visitors to be more conservation minded. We encourage visitors to become familiar with the many species of butterflies native to northern Vermont and the plants that feed and host them from egg to pupae to butterfly.
We’ve created an environment for these delicate creatures to thrive and reproduce, so you can observe every stage of their life cycle during the summer. In the fall, when the colder air approaches, we carefully take in any eggs and release the remaining butterflies. Monarchs migrate many thousands of miles to overwinter in warmer climates.
During the summer months, you’re invited to immerse yourself in color and the gentle movements of tiny wings. This vibrant space is home to a selection of butterflies and moths that are native to northern New England, including Monarchs, Eastern Swallowtails, Red Admirals, Painted Ladies, and more. We nurture them from eggs through all stages, so you can see pupae and cocoons, as well as mature specimens.
We’ve also assembled a garden of plants that host these pollinators in every stage of life. These include host plants for eggs and caterpillars as well as nectar producing flowers for butterflies to feed. You’ll discover plants to attract pollinators to your garden in many shapes and colors.
We stop ordering pupae in late August. Colder weather and shorter days also slows the rate of mating and egg laying that would normally occur. By early-September any remaining butterflies need to be released.
The Butterfly House has both nectar plants to feed the butterflies and the larval host plants for the caterpillars. You may see eggs and caterpillars for both Painted Ladies and Spicebush Swallowtails. The Painted Lady caterpillars are on a variety of different plants, but they favor Hollyhock and Marshmallow. The Spicebush Swallowtails, as the name suggests, only feed on Spicebush (Lindera benzoin). And their caterpillars, well, they are just flat out amazing in their use of mimicry to avoid predation. When they first hatch and for their first three molts (instars), the caterpillars are mottled brown and white so that they look like bird droppings. With the fourth and fifth molts, they are either green or orange with giant eye spots. They mimic a snake’s head! If startled, the caterpillar will even curl its own head under while raising up the “snake head” to further the illusion of it being a snake. You have to see it to believe it!
Although we usually open the Butterfly House on June 1, it takes another two to three weeks for the flowers and butterflies to be at their peak. The main attraction, the butterflies of course, are plentiful. Species include Eastern Black Swallowtails, Spicebush Swallowtails, Tiger Swallowtails, Mourning Cloaks, Commas, and Painted Ladies.
We encourage visitors to the Butterfly House to take their time and enjoy the space. Benches are plentiful so you can relax and take in the experience.