A female Cruiser, at the Magic Wings Butterfly House

Seems like a good idea the show a few more “Magic Wings” butterfly photos.  These are from my recent trip to the Magic Wings Butterfly House, part of the Museum of Life & Science, in Durham, North Carolina.  In this post I’m also going to provide a little butterfly education.

The Butterfly House is only one of several exhibits they have on the site. On that first trip there were some issues that prevented me from seeing everything, but that just means I’ll make a few more trips to take in the whole experience.

The Butterfly House itself is 35 feet high and hosts about 1000 butterflies according to their promotional material. I don’t doubt that for a minute, there were exotic butterflies everywhere.

They keep the temperature at a steady 80° Fahrenheit, and the humidity at some unspecified level that feels like mild tropical. Spend some time inside, especially in direct sun, and you will sweat. Not as bad as being in the Carolina low country in August, but definitely damp. That’s a small price to pay for having amazing photo opportunities at every step.

Now, let’s look at some of the butterflies. The first image is of Vindula dejone, a widespread, but not commonly seen, butterfly that ranges from India all the way to Northern Australia, including Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. My image is of a female, which has the distinctive white markings on the ventral wings. This species shows sexual dimorphism, meaning the males and females are visually different. The males are usually a brighter orange color, but lack the bolder white wing bands. These butterflies grow to 2.5 inches (57-65mm). They inhabit both open fields and rainforests. I happened to catch this girl nectaring on red flowers where she gave me a near perfect pose. You can’t ask for a better photo op.

Idea leuconoe, the Paper Kite, at the Magic Wings Butterfly House

This next image is Idea leuconoe. Commonly known as Rice Paper butterflies, Paper Kites or Tree Nymphs, these guys are members of the subfamily Danainae, which includes the Monarchs of North America. One of the interesting things about these butterflies is that they taste bad. Most species of this family also have strong or brightly colored patterns so that birds and other predators can easily find them. But one taste and they leave them alone. One butterfly is sacrificed for the good of the species. Nature works in mysterious ways.

Heliconius melpomene, or Common Postman butterfly

The last image for this week is the Common Postman, Heliconius melpomene, sometimes known as Longwings. These butterflies are Neotropical, meaning they can be found from southern Mexico all the way to Bolivia. There are dozens of subspecies and color variations and they often mimic each other as well as similar species. They are small, usually only a few inches in wingspan. Also, they feed on pollen as well as nectar. The pollen is believed to help females produce larger numbers of eggs.

There in one other interesting fact about the Longwings. They have the ability to memorize where their favorite flowers are. They have an instinct similar to the Traveling Salesmen algorithm which allows them to find the most efficient route to visit the best flowers each day.

That’s about it for butterfly education today. For me part of the joy of photographing the wonders of nature, is learning about all the amazing creatures I find. I feel it deepens the experience. It’s part of understanding how all the various aspects of life are so intertwined and how each life form is dependent on dependent on other life. The environment creates opportunities for all these amazing life forms, and they in turn create new environments. The camera is a great way to experience and appreciate our world.

Quote of the Day
“In a meat-eating world, wearing leather for shoes and even clothes, the discussion of fur is childish.”
Karl Lagerfeld


Magic Wings Butterfly House