Area butterfly buffs will have a unique opportunity to see exotic butterflies up close and personal while learning about the Monarch butterfly migration at the San Antonio Zoo’s
first Monarch Fest March 4 – 6. The inaugural event celebrates San Antonio’s recent national status as the first and only Monarch Champion City, so designated by the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayor’s Monarch Pledge program.
Laurie Brown, Zoo volunteer services manager, along with Zoo staff and volunteers, have been preparing for the event for months. On the agenda for the 72-hour celebration: a native plant sale and seed giveaway, kid-friendly crafts and educational activities, and booths/displays by more than a dozen local pollinator advocacy organizations. The event is free with zoo admission.
But for an extra $1.50, visitors can also stroll through the Zoo’s butterfly house, an experience well worth the cost. Proceeds go 100% to conservation and education efforts, says Brown.
Inside the flight house, hundreds of exotic flyers like the Malabar Tree nymph, Idea malabarica, also known as the Paper Kite, will be on display in a natural, garden like setting. The wings of this gorgeous black-and-white butterfly, native to India and Southeast Asia, resemble rice paper with a Monarch-like painted glass pattern.
Interestingly, the Paper Kite’s host plant, Apocynaceae, belongs to the same plant family as the Monarch butterfly’s host plant–Asclepias (milkweeds). Both are members of the dogbane family. Is it a coincidence that the lovely wing pattern on these two butterflies from opposite sides of the world are similar?
Not really, says Brown. The Paper Kite and Monarch are distant relatives.
Also scheduled for appearances in the flight house: the Common banded Peacock, Papilio crino, sometimes called a Buddhist Heart, sports fluorescent wings can suggest blue or green, depending on the angle from which it is viewed.
Brown promises a couple dozen other exotics, a mix of local butterflies and a handful of amazing Atlas Moths, Atacus atlas, one of the most dramatic looking Lepidoptera. If you’ve never seen one of these impressive moths up close, you’re in for a treat.
These Saturnid moths rank as one of the 10 largest insects in the world and hail from Southeast Asia. Their wingspans can reach 12 inches and in Taiwan, empty Atlas moth cocoons, spun from sturdy Fagara silk, are used as purses.
“Some vacated cocoons don’t need to be deconstructed—they can be used ‘as found’ as small pocket-change purses by simply installing a zipper,” according to the educational magazine Mental Floss.
Hmm. New handbag trend?
Advance tickets are available online or you can buy them upon arrival. Hope to see you there!
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