The Butterfly Encounter: Exhibit allows people to feed, learn about butterflies

Published 9:00 pm Friday, August 5, 2022

Butterflies have invaded the Freeborn County Fair as part of a new exhibit. 

“You can come in and feed live butterflies,” said Annette Holt, a staff member of the Butterfly Encounter running the exhibit at the fair. “We show you how to feed them on the feeding stick as well as to how to gently get them off their feeding stick back onto the flowers.”

According to Holt, butterflies, along with bees, are one of nature’s main pollinators.

“Unfortunately butterflies are starting to become extinct,” she said. “Monarchs themselves are one of our most resilient butterflies that we have in America, and they just hit the extinction list.”

And, Holt argued, if there aren’t butterflies, there isn’t food.

By having the exhibit, she wanted to bring nature to those who may not get to see them closely in the wild.

The exhibit, which she described as peaceful and relaxing, is also a learning experience where people can learn about the different species of butterflies as well as the value butterflies bring to “our economy and the ecosystem.”

While at the exhibit, people will see Monarch and Southern Painted Lady butterflies and have the opportunity to take photos and videos with the bugs.

“You are within this little 20-by-10-foot space,” she said. “You have over 100 butterflies.”  

Besides preventing them from escaping and chasing them down, Holt said ensuring visitors handle the butterflies gently was a challenge.

“They like to hitchhike on people and go off because when you use any type of floral shampoo or soap or laundry detergent, they like to land on you,” she said.

To ensure those things do not happen, she makes sure the exhibit is sealed to the ground and fully sealed. The exhibit has two doorways, and they also check each visitor as they leave.

For anyone interested in visiting, the Butterfly Encounter is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Commercial Building. Look for flowers and decor.

“Butterflies are fragile, but they’re not just an insect,” she said. “They have a very meaningful job to our ecosystem.”

Holt said this was either the first or second time the Butterfly Encounter, which travels around the United States for events, fairs and expos, was at the Freeborn County fair.

“They called us and brought us in as entertainment,” she said. “We’re here to entertain the kids, give the kids something to do.

“They’re also learning at the same time, and they get to experience nature.”

Butterfly Encounter is based in Florida.