One of the sure signs every spring in Montreal that summer is just around the corner is the Butterflies Go Free exhibit at the Montreal Insectarium. These symbols of rebirth are not only beautiful to look at they are a sign that warmer times are coming.
Upon paying your entrance fee you not only get to see the butterflies for your money you are also granted access to the flower greenhouses as well. Walking through the flowers and plants almost allows one to feel as if they have traveled to all the continents. There are plants and flowers from North America, South America, Asia, and others. You are treated to orchids of all colours, ferns, tropical plants, plants from the rain forests, cactus, fruit trees, and bonsai plants. Amidst the flowers and plants there are a couple of beautiful falls and streams running through. You really feel at times as if you are in the jungle or forest. There are also several interactive areas geared towards young ones, but the older ones can also learn from them, with videos and different stations that teach you about plants, roots and flowers.
Once you enter the greenhouse that contains the butterflies it is like you are stepping into another world. Right upon entering there are many flying around your head and you feel as if you are in a kinder, gentler world. Even though I went on what was the last weekend for the exhibit there were still many butterflies to be seen. We were even told that the butterflies would be caught one by one on Monday (April 30), put individually into envelopes of a sort and send off to their next destination of Newfoundland. These butterflies are from all areas of the planet (Australia, Costa Rica, etc), they have come here and will be seeing much of Canada, so to speak.
The main theme behind this year's exhibit is an effort to debunk many of the myths about moths and butterflies. With this desire to educate comes the idea that once people know about these beautiful creatures then we will make more of an effort to conserve their habitat. Like many animals/creatures that we share the planet with the areas they have traditionally lived in have become compromised due to human activity/encroachment. The education part is amplified by the staff at the Insectarium as they give demonstrations on the life cycle and different species of butterflies and moths throughout the day. For those that may be concerned about the way the butterflies and moths are handled and other ethical issues, the staff at the Insectarium go to great lengths to make sure that the butterfly farms that provide the butterflies all meet very high standards and that the transportation of them is as gentle as possible.
After a few minutes walking amongst the butterflies you are completely in wonder about the different sizes and shapes and that every colour of the rainbow is represented amongst them. To keep the exhibit fresh for return visitors, each day brings a new bunch of butterflies being released, so you would see different ones each time you came. The day I went I was able to see Owl Butterflies, Rice Paper Butterflies, Malachites Butterflies, and Golden Helicon Butterflies amongst others. They are flying around the greenhouse relatively unhindered and stop only to feed on the plates of fruit or plants that have been placed there for them. If you are extremely still then you have a chance of a butterfly landing on you. Despite the temptation you are not supposed to touch the butterflies that land on you or at any time, actually, as they are such delicate creatures. To round out the experience there was a display behind glass of moths hatching, some caterpillars and also chrysalises with butterflies popping out every so often. We got to see the whole life cycle of these beautiful creatures.
If you were not able to make it to the Insectarium this year remember next year when it seems like winter will never end that you can head over to see these spectacular flying things which will let you know that summer is just around the corner.