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Published: Tuesday, 4/13/2010

Butterfly House celebrating monarchs

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Since their origins, possibly in ancient Rome, May Day celebrations have swirled into a holiday hodgepodge of traditions, such as dancing around a maypole or placing, in secret, a bouquet of flowers on a neighbor's door.

At the Butterfly House, May Day will be observed by dusting off the welcome mat and opening doors to visitors as its season for flutterbys takes wing.

Located at 11455 Obee Rd. near the village of Whitehouse, the Butterfly House will be open May 1 to Sept. 30. It is open weekends only in October.

This year the focus will be on monarchs and butterfly gardens, owner Duke Wheeler said.

Harsh weather in Mexico killed many monarchs, Mr. Wheeler said, and in an effort to pump up the population of the delicate, orange-and-black winged creatures, he plans to conduct educational programs as well as classes to teach visitors how to grow butterfly gardens.

The goal is to increase awareness about the monarchs, he said.

By enhancing, restoring, and protecting monarch habitats, people can help increase the numbers of monarchs, he said.

Monarchs are threatened by diminishing resources, including milkweed plants on which to rear their larvae and nectar sources to sustain adults during reproduction.

Deforestation in Mexico has reduced shelter and water available to wintering butterflies.

Another threat is the use of chemicals and the widespread practice of mowing along roadsides which eliminates monarchs and milkweeds.

Monarchs are making their way from the wintering locations in Mexico to the Toledo area, by way of Texas and Florida, Mr. Wheeler said.

Other activities at the Butterfly House include a monarch egg hunt in August when visitors can explore Mr. Wheeler's Christmas tree farm to look for the eggs. Visitors will be encouraged to raise, and then release, monarchs, he said.

Hours of operation for the Butterfly House will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Cost is $7 for people ages 13 to 64; $6 for 65 years old and older, and $5.50 for youth 4 to 12 years old. Younger children are admitted free when accompanied by an adult.

Visitors will have the chance to see monarchs on plants outside the Butterfly House; exotic species stay indoors where winged beauties include the blue morpho from Costa Rica, described by Mr. Wheeler as "probably the prettiest butterfly in the world."

The Butterfly House, now in its ninth year, encourages people to take photographs, and the hope is to expand the annual photography contest, he said.

Although the economy hurt business last year, and there are some worries about this year's season, Mr. Wheeler said with the stresses people are facing, there is no better place to relax than a garden where butterflies flit about the flowers.

He says people are staying closer to home, such as for family vacations, and because of that, he's optimistic about the upcoming season.

About 20 varieties of butterflies are attracted to the Butterfly House's outdoor gardens, he said, showing visitors that with proper care of the environment they can attract butterflies to their homes, too.

"That's the message," he said.

When butterflies are out and about, "it is really magical."



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