May 18, 2021 – Butterflies and History
Don’t know why I had such a restless night last night. The bed and pillows are comfortable, but I tossed and turned a lot of the night. I just got on up at 5:30 and got the coffee started. The day was cooler than yesterday, and the sky was cloudier too.
We had planned to rent a golf cart, go to the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center, and ride around the park. The cost of the 4-passenger golf cart (Callaway Cruiser) is a little pricey for one full day – $135 + tax. They don’t rent them for ½ day (4 hours) in the morning because of all the golfers they have on their two 18-hole courses. You can rent for ½ day if you want to get it at 2:00. They will rent a 6-passenger one for ½ day for $75 but we didn’t need one that large. The price per day goes down the longer you rent it, with 7 days being the max.
Knowing I was going to spend a lot of time watching butterflies, Chuck suggested we just go to the Butterfly Center and then ride over to the Franklin D Roosevelt State Park to hike. We would rent the golf cart for tomorrow and spend the whole day riding. Fine with me. We called the Golf Pro shop and reserved a 4-seater for tomorrow.
Went back to the Country Kitchen for breakfast. I had the two egg and bacon breakfast. Chuck had the ultimate omelet breakfast. It was colder in the restaurant than yesterday. I wish I had worn my blue jean shirt that I use as a light jacket.
Came back outside to find the wind was still up and the temperature hadn’t risen much. I said I needed my shirt so back to the Lodge we went. I have 3 blue jean shirts. I should just always keep one in the car.
We got to the Center at 10:15. It had only been open for 15 minutes but there were a few people already inside the center. We entered and looked at the displays and watched the video in the area right outside the conservatory doors. We even saw a couple of butterflies that were emerging from their cocoons. They will stay in that display area until their wings completely dry out, and then they will be placed into the live conservatory. We didn’t wait to see if they made it completely out because it can take up to three hours depending on the size of the butterfly.
Once we entered the conservatory, we got blasted with a strong wind from a large fan. They are designed to keep the butterflies away from the doors. It was still cool outside, so the butterflies were staying still on the plants inside the conservatory. Excellent for photographs because I am not a good enough photographer to capture sharply focused in-flight butterflies. I wish I had used some of that time to practice my action shots. Also made it nicer to walk around as I know these places are usually very hot and steamy during full sunlight.
There were so many different types of butterflies. My favorite is always the Blue Morpho. I first saw one at the Key West Butterfly Center. I was fortunate enough to see one in the wild on our tour in Costa Rica during our Panama Canal cruise. I could only get a video of it as it never landed long enough for me to get a picture. You just see flashes of blue among the green plants.
We stayed in the conservatory for an hour. In addition to the butterflies and beautiful plants, they also had turtles and green tree frogs. After checking that we didn’t have a butterfly hitch-hiking on our clothes, we exited the conservatory. We got blasted by the fans again. I wanted to go to the gift shop and buy a Christmas ornament. It was advertised to open at 11:00 but it wasn’t. The volunteer at the main door said she didn’t know why the person hadn’t arrived yet. Maybe she was on her way.
Hoping the gift shop would open shortly, we decided to look at the topiaries that surrounded the outside of the building and walk the 0.6 Rhododendron Trail that was near the Center. I especially liked the topiary of Hairy Dawg. They also had topiaries of other college mascots, but they were not picture-worthy.
Just like the azaleas, there were not many rhododendrons blooming but the ones that were blooming were very pretty. We also heard a very loud bird singing his heart out. I finally located the source. His song was bigger than he was. Normally, birds are too quick for my photography skills but this one was so intent on his song, I was able to snap a couple of pictures.
On the trail, I also discovered that my Fitbit watch would not track my exercise. On each trail yesterday, I would select Exercise, hike, and the Fitbit would record the hike length and heart rate. Today, when I chose Exercise, the Fitbit would just flash and go back to the home screen. So annoying. I would have to wait until I got back to the room to research the problem.
Once we got back from the trail, the gift shop was open, and I was able to purchase my Callaway Gardens butterfly ornament. Chuck was thrilled for me. 😊 Time to go to the FDR State Park.
Cecil B. Day was founder and chairman of the Board of Days Inn of America, Inc. and the Center was funded in his memory by his wife Deen.
The conservatory is 7300 square feet and over 40 feet high at its highest and completely enclosed by 1084 panes of glass. It opened to the public on September 25, 1988.
The conservatory is a USDA regulated containment facility where removal of butterflies is prohibited. There is a penalty of $25,000 or up to 9 years in prison for removing butterflies from the center.
The butterflies come from farmers in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ecuador, Kenya, the Philippines, and Malaysia. They represent all the major tropical regions of the world: Central/South America, Central Africa, and Southeast Asia/Australia.
The flora inside the conservatory consists of over 100 species of tropical plants mimicking a rain forest.
Surrounding the Day Butterfly Center are gardens containing plants especially chosen for their benefits to native butterflies. These gardens provide an example to guests wanting to create their own butterfly gardens and they provide an opportunity for guests to see butterfly eggs and larvae.
Butterflies have compound eyes, smell with their antennae, taste with their feet, feed with their tubular tongue, and weigh less than most flowers. Many are capable of flying thousands of miles.
*trivia provided by Callaway Gardens documents