Blooming Butterflies at Olbrich Gardens

Posted by Samantha Haas on Wednesday, August 9th, 2017 at 4:21pm.

Growing up in the country, I spent many summer days chasing swallowtail and sulphur butterflies through the hay fields. But one of Wisconsin's most recognizable butterflies, the monarch, has been facing a population decline over the last decade.

Some city neighborhoods, including many along bike paths in Madison, have established gardens with prairie plants like milkweed to try to bring back the orange and black beauties and other insects. If you're having trouble spotting them on your own, Olbrich Botanical Gardens on the east side offers a Blooming Butterflies exhibit that features thousands of butterflies for the public to see from mid-July to mid-August.

While some butterflies are naturally drawn to the outdoor gardens at Olbrich, the indoor Bolz Conservatory becomes home to nearly 20 native and tropical species in the summer.

There are even two chrysalis cases where you can watch the butterflies emerge before living out the rest of their lives (usually between a few weeks to a few months) inside the conservatory, which also features fish, birds and plants.

Olbrich staff said since this is the last week of the exhibit, there could be up to 4,000 butterflies inside the conservatory for people of all ages to see. You never know where they could be flying or perched in the 50-foot-high glass pyramid, so be sure to look up, down and even on your clothes.

Note that touching the butterflies is not allowed, and it's recommended to use quiet voices.

Olbrich also offers a Monarch Meet-Up program and scavenger hunt to educate guests about butterflies and what they can do to help.

This year's exhibit has been the busiest yet for Olbrich, with a couple thousand people visiting each day. Tom Fullmer, marketing and special events coordinator at Olbrich, suggests coming closer to noon when many families go home for naps and lunch.

He said guests can also spend time checking out the "mind-boggling" colors of hundreds of exotic butterflies and insects on display from collector Dan Capps.

There's still plenty to explore outside in 16 acres of themed gardens, featuring waterfalls, beautiful flowers and the country's only Thai pavilion.

Check it out

What: Blooming Butterflies

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 20-Aug. 13, 2017

Where: Olbrich Botanical Gardens, 3330 Atwood Ave., Madison

Cost: $7 ages 13 and up, $3 ages 3-12, free for members and ages 2 and under


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