Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The Beauty of the Butterfly; A New Exhibit at the Jacksonville Zoo Follows the Winged Creatures from Pupal Stage to Colorful Fluttering About

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The Beauty of the Butterfly; A New Exhibit at the Jacksonville Zoo Follows the Winged Creatures from Pupal Stage to Colorful Fluttering About

Article excerpt

Byline: Roger Bull, Times-Union staff writer

The annual spring bloom of butterflies along the Florida coast is still a month or so away. The monarchs will be fluttering their way through the area, headed for points north, in a few weeks, and the hundreds of species of colorful winged critters that call Florida home will begin emerging with the warm weather.

But at the Jacksonville zoo, butterflies started showing up this week, at a new exhibit.

"Butterflies!" isn't a permanent exhibit, but there's no set date for it to close.

"A lot will depend on how well the exhibit does," said Greg Lepera, curator for the exhibit. "How the butterflies are doing, how the plants are doing. It will probably be toward the end of September, but it could be October."

The zoo was looking for something new to fill the time and capture public attention until the Land of the Jaguar opens next year. With interest in butterflies soaring, temporary butterfly exhibits have been very successful at other zoos, he said. But the manpower and expense is too high to make it a permanent exhibit.

The zoo built a new greenhouse to house the butterflies and butterfly-supporting plants. The exhibit space is 30 feet by 72 feet, with an additional small gift shop.

The exhibit will include about 50 butterfly species, all native to Florida. (By the way, there are 116 native butterfly species in Duval County and 189 native to the state of Florida.) They'll come from Greathouse Butterfly Farm near Waldo. Some will arrive at the zoo as butterflies, but most will be in the pupal stage. Lepera said the pupae will be glued to a board and hang there, about 500 at a time, until the butterflies emerge. They'll spend 6-24 hours inside a nursery box before being released into the general population.

There should be a couple of hundred butterflies in the greenhouse at any given time, but the types will vary. …

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