GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — For many in West Michigan, visiting the butterflies at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is a tradition.
A lot of planning that into the annual Fred & Dorothy Fichter Butterflies Are Blooming event, which is the largest temporary tropical butterfly exhibition in the country.
“There’s 7,000-plus butterflies that will be flying in this space over the course of March and April,” said Steve LaWarre, vice president of horticulture at Meijer Gardens near Grand Rapids. “All sorts of family activities, things going on every weekend pretty much for families, open late on Tuesdays. It’s a big exhibit for us.”
You know spring is right around the corner when the Butterflies Are Blooming. If you can’t wait for the warmer temperatures to arrive, inside the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory is the place to be.
“You’re in a 15,000-square-foot tropical conservatory, no center support. It feels like we’re outside,” LaWarre said. “Five stories tall. When you walk into this space, you might as well be outside in the tropics.”
He explained Meijer Gardens works three years out on permits, background and governmental approval for the very special exhibit.
“We have to work with USDA and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. All of those permits need to be run through the United States Department of Agriculture,” LaWarre said.
He said the Gardens have a plan for feeding and caring for all the butterflies, all 60 different species.
The delicate, beautiful creatures have a short life span. On average, they only live for two weeks. That’s why throughout the exhibit’s two-month run, they’ll continue to get more shipments of chrysalises.
“There are hundreds of butterflies that show up every week, close to a thousand butterflies per week that all need to be sorted. They all need to be carefully arranged within the observation station,” LaWarre said.
He said most of the species come from tropical South America, like Costa Rica and Ecuador. Some come from Asia and Africa. All of them will live their short but elegant lives in West Michigan, where visitors get to enjoy their wonder and beauty.
Butterflies Are Blooming opens Wednesday, March 1, and runs through April 30. Admission to the Gardens is free for members and children age 2 and under, $10 for children ages 3 to 13, $15 for students with ID and seniors 65 and older, and $20 for people age 14 to 64.
“This time frame, March and April, is just such a great time because if we’re coming off of the bulk of winter, it’s just an opportunity for people to get into the tropics, enjoy these beautiful butterflies and just kind of absorb that warmth and that humidity that’s in this space,” LaWarre said.