On Thursday, M and I went to a butterfly and wildlife park in the next county. They have a tropical hothouse there full of exotic butterflies, caterpillars, leaf cutter ants, some birds and koi carp. There was also a small bug house with spiders and tarantulas, scorpions, hissing cockroaches, stick insects and some unusual reptiles. It was a lovely sunny morning, the nicest the weather's been for about two weeks and inside the hothouse it was around 80 degrees. Perfect for me because I'm always cold, but I think M found it a little uncomfortable at times and he was glad to get a little fresh air!
In the hot houses they had a code to help you spot some of the more hard-to-spot features, they put coloured pegs on branches to point out butterfly eggs on leaves, or where caterpillars and chrysalides were. Some of the caterpillars were easy to spot such as this big fella. His stripes were very Burtonesque and made me think of Beetlejuice.
This caterpillar was harder to see, he was hiding his black and spiky gothic-ness under a leaf.
I really wanted a big butterfly to land on me, the video they were showing before you went in showed butterflies like dinner plates landing on unsuspecting children. That's what I wanted; to be covered from head to toe in gloriously coloured butterflies, like a insectile Doctor Doolittle, but there weren't any really large butterflies in there, I guess maybe it was the wrong time of year, or they hadn't hatched yet. This one took a fancy to my bag though, so I got a picture in the end.
In the middle of the hothouse, this colony of leaf cutter ants was prevented from escaping into the 'gen pop' by a large moat type set up. They had two islands in a big pond, with a pink rope slung from island to island and they happily traversed the rope all day long, carrying their precious cargo of leaf fragments back and forth. It's amazing how much more they can carry in proportion to their body weight. I've been trying to think of a comparison. Would it be the same as me carrying a boat sail, or a billboard?
There were loads of giant Koi carp in the pond too.
The park imports most of it's exotic butterflies from Fair-trade butterfly farmers from around the world. They are shipped as chrysalides and are put in an incubator until they are ready to emerge. Then hopefully the butterflies will breed naturally and lay their own eggs in the hot house.
Outside of the hothouses there was still plenty to do; there was a small domestic farm area, with goats and rabbits in. There was also a wildlife walk which wound through beautiful countryside, and luckily the weather was nice enough to stroll along the walk, enjoying the scenery.
There was also a wildflower garden which was designed to encourage British butterflies.
There were lots of Red Admirals and Cabbage Whites there.
We timed it just right as well, because just after we got home, the heavens opened and we had storms all afternoon.