Where the magic begins: A butterfly festival preview

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Where the magic begins: A butterfly festival preview

Categories: Blog, Newsworthy

Photo by Debbie Elias

Some might be considered creepy—with horns, spiny parts and poison. Others flaunt gorgeous colors and patterns. But beautiful or not, without them we would have no “flying flowers” to enjoy in our gardens.

Join us in celebrating the crazy, colorful world of the caterpillar during the 15th annual Festival of Butterflies this August at Powell Gardens.

 Caterpillars are the larvae of butterflies and moths and take on some wild and wacky forms in their quest to survive.

Hickory Horned Devil
Hickory Horned Devil by Bill Swindaman

One of the wildest of the wild is North America’s largest caterpillar, the Hickory Horned Devil. This stunning caterpillar is rare locally and can grow to 6 inches or more! An intrepid volunteer has obtained 24 eggs of this fascinating creature and is waiting for them to hatch. If Mother Nature cooperates, we’ll have baby Hickory Horned Devils for you to see in our new Caterpillar Experience in the Community Room.

The Hickory Horned Devil is just one of five in the “Grand Slam” of North American caterpillars—and we’ll have the other four as well. Come check out the fascinating Cecropia, Polyphemus, Luna and Imperial “cats” with volunteers from the Idalia Society.

One volunteer is raising more than 100 Polyphemus caterpillars so you are pretty much guaranteed a chance to see these interesting critters up close. They look like living green accordions!

Within the Caterpillar Experience you’ll find a complete menagerie of some of the most unique caterpillars that live in our area. Most of the swallowtails will be represented, including our mascot, the Spicebush Swallowtail. Betsy Betros, a local author and naturalist, will share her photos and stories about caterpillars at 3 p.m. each Saturday and Sunday of the festival. 

Our guest artist Kelly Hughes of Open Window Studio in Jackson, Mo., also shares the caterpillar love. 

Her “Caterpillars with Character” exhibit includes 20 freehand multimedia works that capture the diverse beauty of these creatures. Each portrait is tagged with information about the food sources, habits and development of each species. Kelly will be on hand to meet festival visitors from 1 to 3 p.m. August 13 and 14.

 And to those of you who are crafty—consider making a caterpillar parade “float” (think Chinese dragon!) for our Costume Parade. Register with us in advance and you’ll get free admission to the festival! These can be as simple or as elaborate as you’d like. If you just want to watch, join us at 11 a.m. each day of the festival. We’ll start by the Missouri Barn in the Heartland Harvest Garden and parade to the Fountain Garden.

As always, we’ll have hundreds of gorgeous butterflies for you to enjoy both indoors and out. We can’t wait to see you in the Gardens!