Thom Smith: Exhibits allow visitors to interact with butterflies


It is always exciting for me to get almost immediate feedback after a column is published, and last week's hummingbird moth sparked considerable interest. Reports of hummingbird moths arrived by email from Great Barrington to Pownal, Vt.

And for those who found a downy woodpecker feeding at a hummingbird feeder surprising, here is another odd one for you. Last week, while sitting on our daughter's deck in Holyoke discussing with our 3-and-a-half-year-old grandson ways to retrieve the only two ripe apples from the nearby tree, a cardinal figured out how. Yes, a seed-eating cardinal took advantage of the ripe fruit, flew to it and began eating the apple's flesh, not simply trying to get at the seeds. So much for apples from that tree this year. (Last year it provided more than a bushel.)

Butterfly exhibits

I recently visited Scott Jervas at the Berkshire Museum Aquarium. Jervas is also charged with the care of the butterfly exhibit, now being extended to Oct. 26. He commented that there is a continuing need for volunteers to "interact with, and guide visitors through the Butterfly Pavilion." And with school starting soon, and the pavilion now open longer, I can imagine the need will be even greater.

Duties include:

n Assisting museum staff and other volunteers in maintaining the Butterfly Pavilion, including

filling feeding stations, clearing walkways of landed butterflies and other assigned tasks.

n Attend training to gain general butterfly and plant knowledge.

n Crowd control (on busy weekends).

n Or be a "plant specialist," caring for the wide variety of plants in the pavilion. Must be 17 or older.

And, as Jervas commented, "It really isn't so compartmentalized, that is, the positions have hybridized. You play host when people come in, when no one is around, you care for the plants, etc."

When I visited with family in July, the volunteer was having as much fun as the visitors. The friendly, harmless butterflies were especially active, themselves greeting the visitors. Go to for more information.

Butterflies are big this summer, with two local opportunities to interact with live butterflies: the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield with exotic and local species, and Project Native in Housatonic, open 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through Sept. 20, with best viewing of native species on warm, sunny days. Last summer, I was thrilled at seeing spicebush swallowtail caterpillars for the first time in their butterfly house.

Interested in learning more about local butterflies? Free bug and butterfly safaris -- with nets, bug boxes, magnifying glasses and field guides at the ready -- will explore fields at Project Native to find eggs, caterpillars and butterflies to relocate into the Butterfly House. Participants will learn to identify host plants, tricks for finding eggs/caterpillars and ecologically harvest food for caterpillars in the Butterfly House. All ages are welcome to participate at the event, which will be held 10:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, Aug. 23, and 10:30 a.m. to noon Tuesday, Aug. 26. Please note, safaris do require walking on uneven ground, and children should be accompanied by an parent or guardian. The grounds are lovely and worth a visit, especially early in the day.


Please remember, if your child wants a turtle after watching the "Ninja Turtles" film, consider one of the many plastic action figures, or one of the other Ninja Turtles items available, not a live turtle.

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