British Columbia·Photos

Fly away to the Amazon at new butterfly exhibit

Experience the life cycles of these vibrant insects and the importance of a butterfly's impact on the ecosystem at the Vancouver Aquarium from May to September.

Thousands of tropical butterflies on display at Vancouver Aquarium

Andrea Cotter, assistant curator for the Amazon exhibit, examines a Giant Owl butterfly during the opening of the new butterfly feature at the Vancouver Aquarium in Vancouver, British Columbia on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A banded orange heliconian, blue morpho and a doris longwing are among the 80 species of butterflies brought from Costa Rica to the Vancouver Aquarium for an exhibit that recreates a South American rainforest. 

The last time a butterfly exhibit was featured at the aquarium was in 2014. After positive reviews and a growing demand from members and visitors, the aquarium decided to bring them back.

A curious butterfly flutters around a visitor at the Vancouver Aquarium. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Until September, visitors will have a chance to view the life cycle of the butterflies from pupa — the stage when a caterpillar becomes a chrysalis — to adult stage.

Each week, 25-30 new species will arrive from a butterfly farm in Costa Rica.

Many of the butterflies found in Costa Rica range down to the Amazon rainforest.

A Inverse Longwing butterfly sits on a flower. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Two new chambers have been built in the enclosure where aquarium visitors can view where the pupa transform into adult butterflies.

The metamorphosis of a butterfly consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult. The pupa stage, also known as the chrysalis stage, is when the larva transforms inside of a hard shell and emerges as an adult butterfly. The pupa stage can last from five to 21 days.

Andrea Cotter, assistant curator for the Amazon exhibit, examines a butterfly during the opening of the new butterfly feature at the Vancouver Aquarium in Vancouver, British Columbia on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)
A Blue Morpho makes a tripod its home during the opening of the new exhibit that will run until September. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The diet of a butterfly consists of nectar and fruit that are readily available in the gallery enclosure. Ibises, sloths and tortoises co-exist with the butterflies to simulate their natural environment in the Amazon. 

Visitors duck out of the way as a huge Blue Morpho makes its way around the gallery. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Although touching the sensitive insects is prohibited, many of the butterflies perching on branches and fruit stay still long enough for visitors to get an up close look at the beautiful patterns and vivid colours the butterflies use to blend into their surroundings.

The pattern of a Giant Owl butterfly mimics the eye of its namesake to scare off predators. (Ben Nelms/CBC)
Andrea Cotter examines a Swallowtail butterfly. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The species of butterflies featured at the exhibit vary in size and colour, from the hand-sized blue morpho to the smaller golden heliconian 

The last time a butterfly exhibit was featured at the aquarium was in 2014. After positive reviews and a growing demand from members and visitors, the aquarium decided to bring it back. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The lifespan of the adult butterflies ranges from a few days to a couple of weeks. With more than 600 to 800 individual butterflies arriving each month, there are many specimens available for viewing.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.