Zoo News

Zoo News

The Dallas Roars! Festival of Flight Ends with Opening of Butterflies
Mar 28, 2011

The Dallas Roars! Festival of Flight kicks off its third weekend of the annual spring celebration with the opening of Butterflies! presented by Kimberly-Clark Corporation. Dozens of the beautiful winged insects will flutter in the temporary walk-through exhibit when it returns to the Dallas Zoo on May 7. The Butterflies! exhibit will remain open through the July 4 weekend.

“The Dallas Zoo plays an important role in enhancing the quality of life for children, families, and the community,” said Jenny Lewis, vice president of the Kimberly-Clark Foundation. “Kimberly-Clark is proud to continue our long-time support of the Zoo and is excited to present this year’s Butterflies! exhibit.”

Lush landscaping in the 30- by 48-foot exhibit includes butterfly-friendly shrubs and flowers. A fountain in the background and picnic tables outside the exhibit add to the peaceful setting.

“Butterflies are ambassadors to the insect world,” said Dale Clark, founder of Butterflies Unlimited. Clark, who collected butterflies as a child and now raises butterflies on his property in Glen Heights, near DeSoto, is supplying butterflies for this exhibit. “They are a great indicator species. Their survival relies on the interaction between plants and soil.”

A variety of Texas native species will be displayed, including monarch butterflies; zebra longwings; Gulf fritillaries; question marks; red admirals; and black, pipevine, and giant swallowtails.  Interpreters and volunteers will be available to help point out the different species and stages in the insects’ life cycle – frog eggs to caterpillars to pupae, and finally as butterflies.

“There are 170 different species of butterflies native to Dallas County alone,” Clark said. “Some have been extirpated due to new housing developments, but they can be found nearby.”

Landscaping is critical to butterfly survival. The Zoo’s horticultural department is planting perennial nectar plants to provide food for the butterflies. The exhibit also will feature lantana, purple coneflowers, verbena, milkweed, black-eyed susans, and of course, butterfly bushes.

“Anyone can create a garden to attract butterflies,” said Cindy Wahkinney, horticulture supervisor for the Dallas Zoo. “Many butterflies prefer certain colors of flowers like red, blue, orange, and purple. They can see an intense range of colors. But color is not the only consideration. In order to have a prolific garden, you need host plants as well as nectar plants.”

Butterflies lay eggs on the host plants; caterpillars hatch, eat the plants, and develop into pupae. When they emerge as butterflies, they seek the nectar plants, she explained. In host plants, black swallowtails look for fennel, dill, parsley, and rue to lay their eggs. Gulf fritillaries like passionvine. Pipevine plants of course attract pipevine swallowtail butterflies.

“Female butterflies have sensors in their legs,” Wahkinney explained. “They feel and taste the plants and intuitively know where their eggs will survive.”

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