For Laurel Scholten her favorite part of seeing the butterflies is watching them emerge from their chrysalis.
“If it goes just perfectly, they will slide right out and then there they are,” said Scholten, who this year is overseeing the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park’s Fred & Dorothy Fichter Butterflies are Blooming exhibition, which officially opens March 1.
In its 21st year, the exhibition will feature about 60 different species flying freely in the Gardens’ Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory. The balmy environment, which is 85 degrees and 70 percent humidity, is a perfect setting for the butterflies, according to Scholten.
“They tend to emerge more in the morning and especially when it is bright and sunny,” Scholten said. “This is because it signals to them that they are going to have better conditions to survive in.”
Approximately 7,000 – 8,000 butterflies will be released in the conservatory during the two-month exhibit with anywhere from 500 to 800 in the conservatory on any given day. The life cycle of a butterfly is about two to three weeks.
The Butterflies are Blooming remains one of the Gardens largest exhibitions with more than 150,000 visitors expected to come through, said the Gardens Public Relations Manager Andrea Wolschleger
“I think it is because of the timing,” Wolschleger said. “It’s a warm, sunny exhibition, a good reason to escape the cold and it signals spring.
“Also, I think it appeals to just about anyone. Whether you are 5-years-old or 55-years-old, you can appreciate it.”
New this year is the addition of more than 900 nectar plants that will add vivid blooms along with providing nectar for the butterflies. Also make sure to explore the conservatory for two crocodiles sculptures that have “wandered” over from the “Mimmo Paladino: Present Into Past” exhibition that opens Friday, Feb. 26, in the Gardens’ gallery space. The exhibition will feature iconic sculptures from across the artist’s repertoire and new, never before seen work.
“The butterflies really educate people on a variety of topics,” Scholten said, such as pollution since butterflies are the first to be impacted by pollutes. The exhibit also showcases the life span of the butterflies emerge from chrysalides and cocoons in the Butterfly Bungalow, spread their wings for the first time, and are released into the conservatory. Also there is a Caterpillar Room located within The Seasonal Display Greenhouse featuring Monarch caterpillars.
“In fact, one of the number one questions I have is when are the butterflies going to be released,” Scholten said, adding that a sign will be on the Butterfly Bungalow with release times.
The Gardens also hosts a number of family events in conjunction with the exhibit. Various Children’s Activities take place daily during daylight hours in the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden, Tuesday Night Lights allow visitors to bring flashlights until 9 p.m to see the nightlife in the conservatory, and “Who am I” A Butterfly Ballet, presented by the Grand Rapids Ballet, is March 12 and 19 at 12:30 p.m. Tickets for the ballet are $5/members, $8/non-members, and free/children 2 and under.
Butterflies are Blooming will be up through April 31. The “Mimmo Paladino: Present Into Past” runs through Aug. 14. For more information on either exhibit or on the Meijer Gardens, visit the Gardens’ website or call 616-957-1580.