Thursday, May 12, 2005

Butterflies Return To Oregon Zoo By Popular Demand

By Joan Jones
Staff Writer /

PORTLAND, Ore. - This summer, butterflies return to the Oregon Zoo, alighting on delighted visitors during the grand opening of Winged Wonders May 21-22. Butterfly hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the opening week. From Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, hours will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Butterfly admission is an additional $2.

The bevies of beautiful butterflies make their encore appearance mostly because Oregon Zoo Director Tony Vecchio received a flurry of e-mails requesting that the zoo bring the colorful creatures back for another summer.

" It's surprising how such small creatures can have such a big impact on people," said Vecchio. "I received so many impassioned e-mails from young and old alike-it was clear that we'd bring butterflies back in 2005. "

The zoo has planned a variety of fun butterfly activities for the grand opening weekend. Visitors can follow the winding path of butterflies to reach activity stations that include:

  • Drawing chalk butterflies and wildflowers on the path
  • Creating wildflower or butterfly bookmarks
  • Butterfly and wildflower face painting
  • Butterfly-themed puppet show
  • Creating butterfly finger puppets
  • Dressing up like butterflies in the pollinator game
  • Stamping activity highlighting backyard habitat
  • Learning about attracting butterflies to the home garden
  • Planting a free native seedling to attract garden butterflies

Winged Wonders showcases more than 20 species of North American butterflies and by mid-summer, the zoo will add vibrant exotic butterflies Central and South America. Colorful butterflies such as Zebra Swallowtails, Buckeyes, and Red Admirals are the main attraction. Visitors can meander through beautiful gardens with water features.

Some lucky visitors may have butterflies land on them, making this exhibit truly interactive. "Lingering" areas with benches allow visitors to sit back and be totally immersed in a world of winged wonders. Before leaving the main exhibit area, visitors can view the life cycle of a butterfly through a pupae display.

An interpretive area allows visitors to learn more about the butterflies with which they've just interacted. Interesting and fun hands-on activities explain how a butterfly uses its senses of sight, smell and taste.

The exit area consists of a butterfly garden with locally available plants native to North America. Plants include butterfly bush, cornelian cherry, kinnikinnick, spirea and dogwood, all of which attract butterflies. Here visitors discover what they can do in their own backyard to create a butterfly-friendly habitat.

"You have to think in terms of plants that will attract butterflies in all stages of their development," remarked Linda Coady Richardson, the zoo's horticultural supervisor. "The caterpillar's plant needs are different from the pupae's, which are different from the butterfly's."

The zoo's field conservation projects with endangered Oregon silverspot and Fender's blue butterflies are also featured. The interactive display describes how the zoo rears endangered butterflies. The zoo has teamed up with the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) to form the Butterfly Conservation Initiative. The Initiative brings government and non-government agencies together to help save imperiled North American butterflies. A portion of the proceeds from the Oregon Zoo's butterfly exhibit helps support the zoo's butterfly education and conservation efforts.

" Most people don't realize there are endangered butterflies here in the northwest," said Vecchio. "We believe efforts in our own region are the most effective way to engage visitors in conservation actions. "We hope by connecting people to beautiful butterflies, they'll begin to care more about the environment and wildlife," he added.

Contact info: Joan Jones may be reached at


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