Butterflies return to WNC Nature Center on Saturday

The summer months will see the WNC Nature Center hosting more than 20 species of butterflies and moths for the center’s highly-anticipated Beauty of the Butterfly exhibit. The exhibit opens on Saturday, June 26 as part of the center’s Nectar Collector Day and will run through August 24.

The popular exhibit allows WNC Nature Center visitors to wander through a hoop-house, coming in close contact with blooming flowers and several hundred butterflies. This is the seventh year the exhibit has appeared at the center, and an estimated 30,000 people visit the butterflies each season, says Eli Strull, the center’s Education Specialist.

Butterflies on display in the exhibit come from actual butterfly farmers in other parts of the county, mostly in Texas and Florida. While the WNC Nature Center is permitted to keep the specimens in the display area, it is not allowed to release them into the wild.

This will be the last year the exhibit takes place in the temporary hoop-house, as next summer will see the opening of a permanent exhibit area at the center. The new exhibit area is made possible by a $45,000 donation by the Friends of the WNC Nature Center, and will be located above the turtle pond that is currently under construction.

The new, larger exhibit will allow visitors to wander a loop trail and spend more time with the butterflies, and will open in the summer of 2011. While the butterflies will still appear seasonally, the trail itself will be home to many plants that attract the flying insects.

The June 26 opening of this year’s exhibit will coincide with Nectar Collector Day, which will celebrate the importance on nectar collecting animals as well as provide fun activities, crafts, games and food.

“We’ll talk about the life cycle of the butterfly, why pollination is so important and what we can do to help,” Strull said.

For information on this and other exhibits and events at the WNC Nature Center, call (828) 298-5600.

The WNC Nature Center’s mission is to increase public awareness and understanding of the natural environment of Western North Carolina. Featuring over 150 animals including otters, black bear and red wolf, the Center is open from 10:00 – 5:00 daily.

The Center is operated by the City of Asheville and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).