Butterflies in winter

Wooded path on a rare sunny winter day – photo by E. Jurus, all rights reserved

I like winter, more than summer actually, but even I look forward to the arrival to spring. Where I live we tend to have a lot of drab days from November to February. The excitement of approaching holiday festivity (putting the Christmas tree up at the end of November is a big deal at our house) gets us through those first two months, and January is an R&R month to a large extent, but February tends to be something of a downer.

Hiking in winter can be problematic, with winds that can be bitingly cold and risky footing. I cook lots of comfort food that we eat in front of a crackling fire, but towards the end of the month cabin fever tends to set in. Luckily, we live close enough to places that give a few hours of escape. One of them is the Butterfly Conservatory in Niagara Falls.

The grounds around the conservatory, where the Botanical Garden lies, are still lovely in winter if the weather’s not too cold

There’s a walk through a snowy landscape from the parking lot to the entrance, but once inside you enter a tropical fantasy world that’s 27 degrees C (81 F) — the staff recommend leaving your outerwear in the coat-check.

photo by E. Jurus, all rights reserved

The butterflies are everywhere, flitting all around you. They don’t seem to pay visitors much mind at all, fluttering around on their own missions. A lot of them land on the plants, windows and rocks, although the Blue Morpho butterfly seems to be in almost constant movement. This large specimen, one of the largest butterflies in the world, has a striking blue colour on the inside of its wings, camouflaged by a brown melange on the outside. When its wings are folded, though large, it can blend into the surrounding vegetation beautifully.

We saw quite a few of them when we were in the Amazon jungle a number of years ago. It was easier to photograph them there than in the Conservatory, where they flew past us constantly but rarely landed — except on my shoulder, where I couldn’t take a photo. I swear the little critter was taunting me. My hubby laughed.

One of the cool parts of the Conservatory is an Emergence Window, where you can see cocoons in several different shapes hanging delicately, and butterflies in various stages emerging and drying off. The Window is pierced with large holes through which the butterflies can exit when they’re ready.

A white morpho butterfly ready to leave the nursery – photo by E. Jurus, all rights reserved

There are several feeding stations filled with fruit and butterflies, where they do finally sit still for a while.

photo by E. Jurus, all rights reserved

There’s a wide variety of butterflies to admire. Sometimes they’re very conspicuous, but just as often they’re tucked among the lush vegetation. This is a place where you want to stroll slowly and look carefully.

A rice paper butterfly on a screen – photo by E. Jurus, all rights reserved
The aptly-named Black Butterfly – photo by E. Jurus, all rights reserved

Meanwhile, the beautifully-dressed surroundings are warm and refreshing in the middle of a cold winter.

https://www.niagaraparks.com/visit/attractions/butterfly-conservatory/There a lot of interesting things to do in and around Niagara Falls, even in the off season. The Conservatory is definitely worth checking out. Visit its website for short video clips and more information.

photo by E. Jurus, all rights reserved