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Free tours offered at Tom Allen Memorial Butterfly House

August 30, 2018
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

Rotary Park is a great destination in Cape Coral to learn all about butterflies, as well as what one can do to bring them to their yard to enjoy.

Rotary Park Senior Recreation Specialist Honey Phillips said every Monday, Friday and Saturday volunteers of the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife offer a free tour of the Tom Allen Memorial Butterfly House. The volunteers are out at the Butterfly House for an hour starting at 10:30 a.m. on those days.

"They talk about each butterfly host plant, nectar plants and what is good to plant in your yard if you want to attract butterflies," Phillips said. "Adults and children are welcome. It's kind of fun to take little kids in the Butterfly House, they are everywhere and up close."

The Butterfly House was built and staffed by the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife volunteers. All of the butterflies, typically five to 10 different species, inside the house are native to Florida.

"It's usually bursting with life. The eggs, caterpillars, butterflies and chrysalis," she said. "We use the Butterfly House for school groups. We take them in and teach them about the butterfly life cycle and native butterflies."

The tour is free for anyone who wants to attend. Phillips said they accept donations for the Friends group, so they can buy plants because the caterpillars "eat everything."

The Butterfly House was built eight years ago in 2010. Phillips said the great thing about the Rotary Park property is even when the Butterfly House is not open, individuals can still enjoy the butterflies.

"We release butterflies into our gardens and our gardens are pollinator gardens. When you walk up the path to the building they fly right in front of your face," she said.

Phillips explained that when they get an abundance of a particular species they release them into the garden. With that said, some of the species may spend their entire lifecycle inside the Butterfly House.

"We do have a monarch tagging program," she said.

With the tagging program, they can monitor how long the monarch butterflies live and how far from the park they travel.

Although these monarch butterflies are not migratory, they have found them five miles away from the park, and living a lifespan of a couple of months.

"People will send us pictures of the tagged butterfly," Phillips said. "Or if they find a dead butterfly, they will let us know."

In addition to the monarch butterfly, she said they began growing zebra longwing butterflies because, after trees were lost with Hurricane Charley, there were not a lot of the species left in Cape Coral.

"They prefer the shade," Phillips said. "Once we started getting some trees back in Cape Coral, we started growing the zebra longwings and releasing them back into the wild. The host plant is a vine that grows up the side of the trees. The population is doing better in Cape Coral."

For those who would like to learn more about creating a butterfly garden in their own yards are encouraged to attend the Butterfly Garden Design Class Friday, Sept. 7, from 10 a.m. to noon, at Rotary Park.

The class is $15 for the household, so a husband and wife can come together.

Those interested are asked to call Rotary Park at (239) 549-4606 to register.

"They can bring pictures of their yard, or where they want to put the garden. I help them choose the right plants," Phillips said.

She said it's a great class to learn all the different plants that can be planted to attract native species of butterflies.

"There are a lot of native flowers that they like. As long as you have flowers and they are host plants, they will come," Phillips said. "It's a helpful class to learn how to plant."



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