The Butterfly Pavilion, maintained by the Elkton (Oregon) Community Education Center (ECEC) located on Highway 38 west of I-5, captured our interest Labor Day Weekend. The Center maintains gardens and trees, as well as a domed enclosure that hatches and supports several butterfly species throughout the summer season.
Visitors enter the enclosure to view the winged occupants, all at different stages of their life cycle. Caterpillars are treated like royalty—gently lifted from the dirt floor if they have left one plant in search of another. Gloved fingers transport the wiggly critters to a nearby milkweed for protection. A board of chrysalis leans against one wall, allowing a close up view of the delicate beauties as they hatch. Butterflies hang from the ceiling, from branches of the varied greenery grown just for their nourishment, or sit on plates of brightly colored sponges filled with Gatorade for them to sip.
The day we visited the sky was overcast, following a surprise rain shower. The butterflies were sleepy, we were told, waiting for the sun to warm them. After a brief visit, we left and when the sun peeked through, returned. The difference was amazing. In the morning, the insects had hung from their perches with wings closed and activity slowed. But in the sun, the wings were spread like brightly painted canvases, the entire enclosure alive with snatches of orange and black. I was reminded of the passage in Luke 12:27 (NIV): “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his splendor was not arrayed like one of these.”
With the advent of increasing building density, as well as changes in agricultural practices, butterflies have lost much of their natural habitat. Both migration paths and sites where they winter over have diminished. Today only five percent of hatchings survive to adulthood in the wild. Predators are varied, the most ferocious the meat eating bee, who destroys the eggs, caterpillars, and adult butterflies. The ECEC provides a protected environment to educate visitors about the butterfly life cycle and survival chances.
We were treated to a view of Monarchs, but the center hatches several other species dependent upon the time of year visited—Painted Lady, American Lady, West Coast Lady, Red Admiral, Mourning Cloak, Western Tiger Swallowtail, and Cabbage White. The hatching season is over for this year, but come next spring the ECEC will once again be alive with the batting of wings in an array of rainbow colors. Put a visit on your list of adventures for 2015.