Tropical species from Costa Rica to make debut Saturday at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
When the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History opens its popular summer exhibit “Butterflies Alive!” Saturday, more than a dozen colorful tropical species from Costa Rica will make their debut in addition to favorites like the Malachite, Julia Longwing, Gulf Fritillary, Common Buckeye and Eastern Giant Swallowtail.
New species include the spectacular Blue Morpho, Giant Owl, Tiger Longwing and Blue-frosted Banner, among others.
“We are excited to welcome these species from Costa Rica for the first time to ‘Butterflies Alive!’ We know guests will be awed when witnessing the Blue Morpho take flight. It’s a must-see!” said Kim Zsembik, the museum director of guest experience.
The Blue Morpho has a wingspread of 5 to 8 inches, and its habitat is tropical rainforests, primarily on the forest floor and in the lower shrubs and trees, according to Dr. Matthew Gimmel, curator of entomology at the museum.
“Its upper side is bright blue with a black line along the outer edge of the wings with white dots on the forewing and orange dots on hindwing, and its underside is dull brown with eyespots. The forewing has two small black and yellow eyespots with a double white line along the outer edge, and a hindwing has one large and three small eyespots with a white and orange line along the border,” he said.
The Blue Morpho Butterfly is the most recognizable butterfly in the whole of Costa Rica, according to its website: “The bright blue color is its most hypnotic feature and yet, these butterflies aren’t actually blue. The color appears the way it is because of the deep, reflective scales on the wings. These scales are very similar to diamonds and are strategically placed so that the light reflects through them and a brilliant blue color gets created.
“When you see the Blue Morpho Butterfly, you might notice a brown butterfly flying alongside It. This is the female version of the Morpho, and like most other species, the females are less flashy. The Blue Morpho needs its colorful wings to attract a suitable mate.”
“Butterflies Alive!” guests can walk through a serene garden while nearly 1,000 live butterflies flutter freely around them. Various butterfly species cycle through the Sprague Butterfly Pavilion during the summer, so no two visits are the same.
The exhibit is included in admission and open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Monday at the museum, 2559 Puesta del Sol. The last entry into the pavilion is at 4 p.m. Reservations are recommended at sbnature.org/tickets.
The museum is also offering volunteer opportunities to guide guests through the unique experience. Adults who are able to commit to one 2.5-hour shift per week are encouraged to apply at sbnature.org/volunteer. Bilingual English/Spanish speakers and those available to volunteer on weekends are especially helpful in sharing this community favorite with the public.