A cream-spotted tigerwing butterfly is ready for its closeup with help from Fort Worth resident Carl Otto, during the opening of Butterflies in the Garden on March 3. The exhibit is open daily thru April 10, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. Photo by J.G. Domke.
March 10, 2022
A warm humidity envelops visitors to the rainforest conservatory at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, where its popular butterfly exhibit opened last week.
Staff members said the sticky temperatures encourage butterflies to fly lower and closer to humans during the Butterflies in the Garden events.
During a March 3 kick-off, FWBG | BRIT executive vice president Bob Byers explained to a crowd in the garden’s lecture hall that the garden typically has a ramp-up period to introduce butterflies before the exhibit opens.
“We try to have (this period) to where we’ve got a full display going in there by the opening of the show,” Byers said. “This year, because of all the crazy weather, the delays that happened in shipments, we’re a little bit behind on that.”
Opening kickoff at the Butterflies in the Garden exhibit in Fort Worth on March 3. Video by J.G. Domke.
According to FWBG | BRIT marketing director Chris Smith, the conservatory contains around 2,500 butterflies. But only about a dozen butterflies were seen fluttering around visitors during the March 3 event. As a result, the FWBG | BRIT temporarily shut down, then reopened Monday, offering discounted tickets — simply the regular Garden admission — until March 10.
“Unseasonably cold weather and getting stuck in transit were a major part of the reduced numbers, lethargic butterflies. We have a saying, ‘We need to pamper our pupae.’ Tropical butterflies really like their warmth,” said Smith.
Staff expects many more butterflies to take flight — about 12,000 in all, over the course of the exhibit.
“Be patient with us, and come back in a few weeks,” Byers said. “You’ll see a lot more going on in there that we’re excited to share with you.”
Visitors observe an array of exotic butterflies at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. Photo by J.G. Domke.
As more butterlies emerge, the exhibit will feature an array of colorful butterflies from North, South and Central Americas, Africa and Asia. Among them: the starry night butterfly, the mosaic, the elegant glass wing, the Small Postman, some pink-spotted cattleheart, the green malachite, the tiger longwing and the ever-popular blue morpho.
Adhering to the laws of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, FWBG staff members have implemented vigorous protocol to ensure that none of the butterflies escape the conservatory, which the butterflies will consider home throughout their entire lifespan.
Before entering the giant glass greenhouse, visitors are required to confirm that will not steal any tropical butterfly or plants while inside the conservatory — which is ultimately considered a felony.
When leaving the exhibit, all visitors are checked by staff to ensure no butterflies are riding along.
Staff members say these extra steps are necessary, because both the butterflies, and some of the plants, are invasive to the area and could quickly damage local ecosystems.
A butterfly at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. Photo by J.G. Domke.
For the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, which merged with the Botanical Research Institute of Texas in 2020, the effort symbolizes hope for the coming years. The six-week event is the first major exhibit for the garden’s rainforest conservatory in eight years.
In 2016, FWBG closed the 10,000-square-foot facility, which opened in September 1986, for a number of renovations, including glass replacement, the installation of new fixtures and pruning of heavy plant overgrowth.
The Gardens intended to return for a new season in the spring of 2020, hosting an exclusive ribbon-cutting for the renovated space on Feb. 28. Within a matter of days, the COVID-19 pandemic shook the world and forced the closure of businesses worldwide.
“After the last couple of years, everything that we’ve all been through, this is a really nice celebration of all of that being behind us,” said BRIT CEO Patrick Newman.
Anticipating a brighter future ahead, the FWBG will revive its beloved Concert in the Garden series this year and debut a new exhibit of wooden bug sculptures in an exhibit titled Big Bugs.
These efforts are among many of the institution’s attempts to strengthen the garden’s educational conservation status and become one of the premier horticultural institutions in coming years.
A blue morpho butterfly finds warmth in a sunny spot. Photo by J.G. Domke.
About: The largest butterfly exhibit in North-Central Texas features array of colorful butterflies from North, South and Central Americas, Africa and Asia.
When: The exhibit now open, runs through April 10. The six-week exhibit will be open daily, including Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tickets: Available at the door or for purchase in advance online. Each ticket comes with a specific time to comply with the 60-person limit enforced by the city.
Non-member tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $8 for children between 6 and 15. Garden members pay $2 less. All children 5 and younger are free.
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