A world of butterflies on exhibit

March 20, 2008 5:13:15 PM PDT
Grab the kids and enter the Butterfly Zone at the Conservatory of Flowers!

Spring is in the air and so are the butterflies -- hundreds of them at the Butterfly Zone at the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers. It's an up- close look at nature's most colorful winged creatures.

The exhibit is open Tuesdays ? Sundays from 9 am to 5 pm and is included with admission to the Conservatory of $5 general; $3 youth 12-17, seniors and students with ID; $1.50 children 5-11; children 4 and under FREE. Night Safaris start at 8 pm on first and third Thursdays of the month May 1 to October 2, 2008 and are included with admission. On these evenings, the conservatory will close at 9:30 pm.

For more information on the Butterfly Zone exhibit, visit www.conservatoryofflowers.org or call (415) 666-7001.

Information Line: 415-666-7001

Conservatory of Flowers
JFK Drive, Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA

About the Butterfly Zone:

Fly on over to the Conservatory of Flowers this spring because the butterflies are back, and there are more than ever. The popular exhibit "The Butterfly Zone" returns to San Francisco's beloved greenhouse with double the number of butterflies and special new Night Safaris starting in May, that let you search with flashlights for nocturnal moths.

The exhibit is a unique opportunity to walk amongst a wide variety of brightly colored blossoms while free-flying butterflies flit from flower to flower, drinking nectar and getting covered in pollen. Visitors can see a dazzling array of more than 25 species of colorful butterflies including Zebra Longwings, Julias, Swallowtails and Monarchs. These goodwill ambassadors of the insect world provide a fascinating demonstration of plant pollination in action, and the exhibit offers handy explanations of the critical role pollinators play in the life cycle of plants.

Amazing facts about butterflies abound as well ? did you know butterflies taste with their feet? It's true! They use taste receptors in their feet to determine whether or not the flower they are standing on will make a good stop for a drink of nectar. And were you aware that the Monarch migration is over 2000 miles? Scientists still don't know how the last generation of northbound Monarchs understands how to fly all that distance south to the exact spot where their great great great grandparents began.

The Butterfly Bungalow in the middle of the gallery is a crowd favorite, allowing visitors to observe one of the most critical stages of the butterfly's life cycle ? the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly. At the Bungalow, you can see the chrysalides, hardened exoskeletons formed by the caterpillars. These intriguing structures are as various as the creatures that created them -- some jade colored with lovely gold spots, some sporting prominent and unusual horns. Inside, one of the great mysteries of nature is taking place -- a total metamorphosis during which the caterpillar liquefies completely and its cells reorganize into a butterfly. Many visitors will be lucky enough to catch the moment when one of these transformed and winged beauties emerges.

Butterflies may be the highlight of this exhibit, but pollinators come in all shapes and sizes including moths. This year, the Conservatory is providing visitors a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with these nocturnal pollinators after dark. Special Night Safaris starting in May let families explore with flashlights to look for the mysterious, green Luna moth. This night-flying behemoth is one of the largest species in North America with a five-inch wingspan. Alive for only one week with the sole purpose of reproducing, the Luna has no mouth and must live on the energy it stored as a caterpillar. Night Safari goers can also hunt for the Great Southern White and can see flocks of butterflies roosting in the rafters for the night. The entire building will be open to investigate as well.