The Butterfly Effect at The Botanical Conservatory

Joel Bowerman, Education Coordinator at The Botanical Conservatory, talks about the current "Butterfly Effect" Exhibit. The exhibit features many different shapes, sizes, and colors of butterflies from all over the world. Also in the video is the Family Garden Close-up. Families were able to search for bugs as well as make edible insect snacks!

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Photos by Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette
Dominic Valenti, 1 1/2 , checks out the butterflies Saturday at the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory. The popular annual exhibit is open through July 6.

Families get a bug’s eye view

Botanical shows value with butterfly display

Edward Vinarcik and his son Nikolas, 2, capture and examine bugs during the Family Garden Close-Up series Saturday.

The “Edible Insects” sign may have been a tad misleading.

With pretzel sticks for legs, a sandwich cookie body and candy-coated chocolate eyes, there was only one insect that children and parents were relieved to snack on during the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory’s “Intriguing Insects” program Saturday.

As for other insects, there was still plenty to buzz about.

Families were able to take their snacks and explore the conservatory’s outdoor garden, using magnifying glasses to observe insects and to record what they found.

Education coordinator Joel Bowerman said the insects program, as well as the 11th annual butterfly exhibit, show children that most insects are here to help, not hurt.

“Kids need to know how insects can help the environment,” Bowerman said. “They can be scary if they don’t know about them, but our job here at the conservatory is to educate them to make insects a little less scary. Instead of looking at an insect as a big scary monster, we kind of take their hand and guide through it.”

The Family Garden Close-up series is a monthly program that offers families additional activities while they tour the conservatory’s three gardens and other attractions. The butterfly exhibit, which features butterflies native to habitats from South America to Africa and Asia, will be on display until July 6.

Bowerman said that because the conservatory has one of the few butterfly tents available in the area, patrons will come to visit the butterflies more than once.

“The customers are our main focus, so to see the look on their faces and hear people talk about this exhibit year-round makes us feel good about our facility,” he said.

This year’s theme, “The Butterfly Effect,” simplifies the chaos theory, which says that one small action in one place can result in a much larger action in a different place – as though a butterfly flapping its wings can cause a hurricane several weeks later.

Bowerman said that having parents engage children with the butterflies and insects helps them understand that even an insect’s small contribution to the environment ripples onward.

“It’s one connection that you can make and build upon to show children how things transpire from the butterfly and what great benefits they provide with their life cycle,” he said. “It builds upon a common interest, and then it webs out.”

Clifford White waited patiently as his granddaughter, Selah, 3, quickly squirmed through a tunnel like a worker ant. She exhaled a “Whee!” when she reached the tunnel’s slide at the end. She steadied herself and ran back to the beginning of the tunnel to start her trek again.

“I just wanted her to have a really productive day,” he said, before hearing another “Whee!” from Selah as she slid down and ran back again.

“She’s a little afraid of the butterflies, but there are some things she does like. I think today is a great day for her because she’s seeing some things she has never seen before.”

Edward Vinarcik, a Lafayette resident, and his 2-year-old son, Nikolas, examined a few insects and the gardens to take a break from the two-hour diaconate ordination at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception across the street.

He said the conservatory gives children a small view of the world without a screen.

“Most people only see the world through TV,” he said. “Here, you go from the desert to tropics to butterflies. It’s not everything you can see in nature, but it gives you a strong impression of it. This is more like the world than what you see on TV.”