Flamingo Gardens is raising $225,000 to construct and maintain a Butterfly Pavilion, or Lepidopterarium, specifically intended for the breeding, display, and release of Broward County native butterflies with an emphasis on education. The 1,600-square-foot pavilion will be accessible to the public for self-guided tours, guided tours, and class field trips.
THE NEED FOR BUTTERFLIES
Butterflies have long been admired for their beauty and grace, but often fail to receive the appreciation they so earnestly deserve for their role in plant pollination. Pollinators, such as bees, ants, and butterflies, are responsible for one out of every three bites of food you eat!
An estimated 87.5% of all flowering plants on the earth need help with pollination—they need pollinators. Pollinators provide pollination to over 180,000 different plant species and more than 1,200 crops. Without pollination, most crops would simply fail to bear fruit and eventually become extinct—as would the animals that rely on them for sustenance.
Pollinators are vital economically, adding $217 billion dollars to the global economy. In the United States, honeybees alone are responsible for between $1.2 and $5.4 billion dollars in agricultural productivity. Pollinators support healthy ecosystems that clean the air, stabilize soils, protect from severe weather, and support other wildlife. Tragically, a host of environmental imbalances are decimating many Florida pollinator populations. For example, Florida monarch butterfly populations have dropped an alarming 80% since 2005!
The monarch butterfly has recently been added to the endangered species list by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service placed the imperiled butterfly on the waiting list for Endangered Species Act Protection and will propose listing it in 2024.
Researchers believe that shrinking populations of native milkweed (the monarch’s host plant), due in part to a boost in the use of the herbicide glyphosate (lethal to milkweed), is responsible. Less milkweed means less habitat, and less habitat means less monarch butterflies, an essential food source for birds and mice. These chain effects inevitably undermine the entire ecosystem.
MEETING THE NEED
Protecting butterflies requires both conservation and education. Educating individuals about butterfly life cycles, migration patterns, and ecological roles cultivates an appreciation for these animals and encourages people of all walks of life to invest in and protect native butterfly habitats, promoting their survival and ensuring that their crucial role in the ecosystem continues
The new Butterfly Pavilion will be an effective way to offer individuals engaging, fun, and interactive opportunities to learn about these key players in our ecosystem and the inseparable connection between their survival and our own. Housed in a screened pavilion and furnished with native nectar and host plants, the exhibit will provide the perfect environment for our 12 species of Florida butterflies to thrive at all stages of their life cycle while providing visitors an opportunity to discover more about these splendid pollinators and their native habitat.
For decades, Flamingo Gardens has offered exhibits to the public that both delight and inform. In 2021 alone, over 192,000 guests, including 12,000+ students—nearly a quarter of which were from Title 1 Schools or children with special needs—were educated about native wildlife (including butterflies!) and the need for conservation.
Since starting our Pollinator Repopulation Program in the fall of 2021, 3,654 students have participated in the program through outreach and in-person field trips. Our Pollinator Repopulation Program allows students to learn about the importance of butterflies as pollinators and the butterfly lifecycle through hands-on, interactive classes in which they can experience all stages of the butterfly lifecycle before releasing the butterflies used in the class.
Putting our own teaching into practice, since June of 2021, we have already released over 8,000 butterflies, representing 12 native species, from our butterfly hatchery.
ABOUT THE BUTTERFLY PAVILION PROJECT
We envision a Butterfly Pavilion that provides a supportive environment for raising Broward County-native butterflies for release, all while educating and engaging our guests. The fully-screened, 1,600-square-foot building will house a variety of native host and nectar plants and will be supplied with flat rocks for the butterflies to sun themselves, special “puddlers” and nectar trays for water and supplemental food, and butterfly “houses”—simple wooden boxes with thin slits cut into them that act as the butterflies’ sleeping quarters.
A path through the pavilion dotted with informative signage will enable our guests to experience a self-guided tour of the exhibit while protecting the butterfly habitat. Of particular interest in the pavilion will be the live display showing the entire life cycle of the butterfly, specially designed to hatch butterfly eggs, protect larvae, and release adult butterflies for colony establishment in our local area. We foresee weekly if not daily releases of butterflies!
In keeping with our mission, the Butterfly Pavilion will serve to perpetuate and protect native butterfly and plant populations all while educating the public about this vital pollinator and the need to conserve it. The funds raised will allow for construction of the pavilion, signage, plant material and staff required to maintain the facility for the first year.