North Suburban Library patrons visit Nicholas Conservatory's butterfly house

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A patron of the North Suburban Library District was in awe of the colorful and beautiful butterfly that landed her direction.

A small group from Roscoe's North Suburban Library had an opportunity to visit the “Butterfly House” at Nicholas Conservatory in Rockford on Wednesday, April 27, 2022.

Hours of fun started in a video room where visitors learned how the exhibit comes together.

The video stated that it is currently too cold for butterflies to be active outside. These butterflies come from a farm in Florida and are brought into Illinois, allowing us to enjoy them earlier. New shipments of butterflies come in every week and are sent to various exhibits.

Exotic species hail from a farm in Costa Rica.



Butterflies develop through a process called metamorphosis. They go through stages, with the first being tiny eggs, each about the size of a pin. Female butterflies deposit them on leaves in small clusters. These plants become the food for the hatching caterpillars, which are stage two, the larva. Next they become pupa (chrysalis) before heading into adulthood.

Butterflies live in a tropical environment in a little nest. We can watch them sip nectar and flowers or to see them just soar.

Visitors learned that most butterflies don't live that long; most live a couple to a few weeks.

A butterfly garden is full of plants and flowers that attract butterflies.

The Takagi family enjoyed quality time together in the butterfly house.

One difference between a butterfly and a moth, the group learned, is that “butterflies are awake during the day when most moths are trying to nap." Some butterflies have camouflage.

Looking at the colors is another way to tell the difference - moths tend to be duller in color. Other features: a moth has a smooth end, and may have tiny wings. Moths have their wings open wide when resting, while butterflies close theirs up.

Butterflies hang out inside of their house in Nicholas Conservatory where visitors from North Suburban Library, Roscoe patrons came for a visit on April 27.

No house plants are kept in a butterfly house.

Next, Nicholas Conservatory guests entered a butterfly lab. Inside the lab, an array of species were featured such as zebra longwings, malachites, swallowtails, queens, and more. In a glass case, butterflies were going through various stages.

Walls of information outlined the difference between a male and a female butterfly. Varied sizes filled part of the lab.

Leigh Lillis checked out a butterfly that landed on her Gatorade-soaked stick.

Where do butterflies go in the winter? Most native butterflies and moths overwinter in their pupa on trees and in leaf filters. Some butterflies even overwinter in their adult butterfly stage. A few migrate to warmer climates. The monarch butterfly flies from as far north as Canada and all the way south to Mexico, a total of 2,500 miles.

Young ones let imaginations soar as they did a kids craft in the lab where they made a 3D style butterfly. They colored paper cut-outs and then applied them to a clothes pin for a super fun effect.

Paisley, Audrey, and Jules were joined by their mother at Nicholas Conservatory.

The North Suburban Library organized this special event as a way to show gratitude to library patrons. "In the past two years, we were unable to do in-person programs, and we wanted to find a way to partner with other local community organizations or businesses, and to find a way for our taxpayers to have fun," said Barb Jacobs, the head of Children's Services. “We worked with Nicholas Conservatory by filling specific time slots for visitors.”

Adults or even youth who would like to learn more about butterflies can listen to “What's that butterfly in my garden?” This is a pre-recorded talk from an Illinois Extension Horticulture educator. It covers details of how to distinguish between some of the most commonly sighted butterflies in the state's flower gardens and prairies. Also offered through the library is “Butterfly Story Time.

Patrons will want to watch the NSLD Facebook page and YouTube channel for a special butterfly story time featuring the book, “Waiting for Wings,” written by Lois Ehlert. This comes complete with a demo of the colorful butterfly craft that will be available through Children's Services at the district libraries.

Future partnerships are being formed to bring NSLD patrons more education and fun.

The exhibit "The Secret Life of Butterflies" runs through May 29.

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