Peace, Love, and Butterflies
By Stephanie Haan-Amato
Who doesn’t love butterflies? Butterflies hold the rare status among insects of being considered lovely and charming by most people. In fact, research demonstrates that butterflies are the most popular group of invertebrates, and perhaps not surprisingly, that mosquitoes, leeches, spiders, and wasps are the least popular invertebrates (source: http://www.conservationmagazine.org/2012/03/popularity-contest/). People commonly buy plants for their yards that attract butterflies. There are festivals held to celebrate butterflies throughout the United States, including, of course, the Asombro Institute for Science Education’s Butterfly Flutterby event in Las Cruces!
To celebrate these popular insects, Asombro has hosted our annual Butterfly Flutterby event in August for the past 14 years, and we will be holding our 15th annual on August 19! This very fun event, which is held at the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park, attracts approximately 200 local human participants, and some butterfly visitors even flutter by from time to time. Butterfly Flutterby includes fun activities for the whole family, including butterfly-themed games and crafts, activities about butterfly research, and an “Ask the Expert” station with an entomologist (insect scientist), which will include some live invertebrates and invertebrate specimens.
There is good reason to celebrate butterflies in New Mexico. The butterfly diversity in our state is tremendous! New Mexico is ranked third in the United States for the number of different butterfly species that have been documented here.
Three hundred and twenty five species of butterfly have been observed in New Mexico. At this time of year, you can spot colorful monarch butterflies that are migrating through our area. Another common species and local favorite is the larger, strikingly marked western tiger swallowtail. More information about local species can be found online:
- Checklist of the Chihuahuan Desert Butterflies of the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez Region, UTEP Biodiversity Collections (https://www.utep.edu/leb/chklist/butterfly/butterfly.htm)
- Texas A & M, AgriLife Extension, Common Butterflies (http://texashighplainsinsects.net/common-butterflies-2/)
Not only are butterflies visually appealing, they also lead interesting and complex lives. They undergo complete metamorphism, which includes four life stages. By the time you see a pretty butterfly visiting flowers in the desert, it has been an egg, a caterpillar (larva), a pupa (in a cocoon), and has metamorphosed into that graceful adult that you see flitting about.
Why do we love butterflies? Maybe it is simply that butterflies are beautiful. It could be that the ability of some species to travel long distances appeals to us. Perhaps the process of metamorphosis fascinates us. I like to think that butterflies make us happy for all these reasons. In fact, I think butterflies make an excellent symbol for happiness. So the next time that someone wishes you “peace, love, and happiness,” perhaps your reply should be, “peace, love, and butterflies!”
Be sure to celebrate and be happy with us at Butterfly Flutterby this year!
15th Annual Butterfly Flutterby
August 19, 2017
9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park
56501 N. Jornada Road, Las Cruces, NM 88012