Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Butterflies, Moths Bring Summer To Storrs

By Emily Butterfield

A display of butterflies and moths shows students details otherwise invisible to the naked eye.
Media Credit: Caitlin Orban
A display of butterflies and moths shows students details otherwise invisible to the naked eye.

One of the last things you expect to see in the cold, dreary, snow-filled winter is a butterfly. With their radiant shades of blue, pink, yellow, purple and green, butterflies remind us of spring and summer, of shorts and t-shirts, of ice cream cones and flowers. Here at UConn, however, you can find yourself amidst the fluttering creatures through March 2.

"On Gossamer Wings: Exploring the Wonder of Butterflies and Moths" is a three-part exhibit on display in both the Homer Babbidge Library and The Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. Each part encompasses the butterfly's beauty through real specimens, books of illustrations and enlarged digital prints.

If you're looking to see exotic butterflies found all around the world, check out the A.J. Carpenter Collection in the Gallery on the Plaza in Babbidge Library. Students and visitors walking through the Library's lobby can't help but stop and stare at actual samples, like the papi lio blumbi, a black butterfly with shades of iridescent green and blue speckled and striped throughout its wings.

"In a gloomy part of the year, like winter, people respond to something reminiscent of warm weather," said Suzanne Zack, the library's marketing and communications specialist and curator of the A.J. Carpenter Collection. "They show us the sheer beauty of what nature shows us. These are real specimens. People are so connected to technology that they don't have the opportunity to see things like this in the flesh."

Borrowed from the Connecticut State Museum of National History, many of the moths and butterflies are from far away countries such as Indonesia, Australia, Peru, Afghanistan, Brazil, India and Japan. However, some are specimens from all over New England. Locally, there have been 2,300 butterfly and moth species recorded in Connecticut, 120 of which are butterflies, according to the exhibit's description.

The collections creator, A.J. Carpenter, is a renowned amateur lepidopterist (butterfly collector) and architect from Boston.

Large three-foot by four-foot prints cover the walls of the Library's Stevens Gallery for the "Night Flyers" collection, a series on watercolor paper that shows characteristics of the moth that are invisible to humans.

Created by Joseph Scheer, a professor of print media at Alfred University in New York, the prints are enlarged with digital scanning technology. The high resolution allows you to see details that are normally naked to the eye. The moths, with their hues of orange, yellow and brown, appear furry, as you can see every little hair on their bodies.

"Night Flyers" will continue through May 11.

Also part of the exhibit is "Feeding on the Everlasting," a collection of rare books from the 18th century illustrating butterflies and moths. The historical illustrations are on display at the Dodd Research Center Gallery.

The exhibit allows students and visitors alike to take a break from every day life and marvel at the world around them, Zack said.

"Wow. Look at what Mother Nature can do," she added.



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