In anticipation of the seasonal opening, staffers grabbed some gauzy nets and caught butterflies this week to stock the Kate Gorrie Butterfly House.
Viceroys, monarchs, clouded sulphurs, black swallowtails, silver-spotted skippers, cabbage whites, fritillaries, silvery blues – these evocative and poetic names were a thrill matched only by the cool breezes and glorious early summer days.
The butterflies stay in the Kate Gorrie Butterfly House, safe from predators. The staff only captured local butterflies that would thrive on the host plants inside of the butterfly house, which focuses on the ecology and conservation of these insects as well as native plant gardening. Monarchs are released in time for their annual migration to Mexico and others are freed back into the wild in the fall.
During the hunt, dragonflies, gnats, bees, birds – anything that moved caught one’s attention. The papery wings flitted by, dodging and floating just beyond the reach of one’s net.
That sparked conversations about capturing techniques: moving the net in a figure-eight pattern, pouncing from behind when a butterfly alighted on a flower, swiftly moving the net to the ground and trapping one before carefully releasing it inside of the butterfly house.
And the hazards: poison ivy when stalking a prized female Monarch, getting clunked in the head by the net’s metal rim when standing too close to others, making sure nothing escaped when opening the doors to the butterfly house.
Participants at a staff retreat at the Pace Center for Civic Engagement at Princeton University joined in the hunting adventures and added their butterflies to the house on Friday.
On Saturday during the seasonal opening, a troupe from The Pennington Studio for Dance & Creative Arts gave a performance as part of the Global Water Dance, where communities from around the world danced for “safe water everywhere”.
Visitors, including a group from the North Jersey Butterfly Club who were given a tour of the grounds by Education Director Jeff Hoagland, viewed the butterflies caught on the mowed trails near the Watershed Center and along the paths of the 950-acre Watershed Reserve.