Slide Show: Butterflies at the Long Island Exhibition Center

07/01/2011 10:55 AM |

For those who have never seen an emerald swallowtail or blue morpho butterfly in person, the brand new Long Island Exhibition Center provides an opportunity to get up close with these exotic creatures.

The exhibition space, located in downtown Riverhead next to the Long Island Aquarium, opens Friday with its first year-round exhibit, Butterflies.

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The 5,000-square-foot exhibition space will be kept about 80 degrees for the comfort of the butterflies which are shipped in from all over the world.  The insects will be brought over in the pupal or chrysalis stage and complete their metamorphosis on premises. Guests can view the pre-adult butterflies at the exhibit and if they are lucky, view one emerge from its cocoon.

The exhibit will host about 1,000 butterflies though it will continually receive new shipments of pupa as the insects only live about two weeks.

There they feed on plant nectar and on trays of rotting fruit and orange Gatorade placed around the room,

To make one of the winged insects to land on your skin, you might one to go running first — they love sweat.

“If you’re sweaty, they will take the salts from your sweat,” said curator Charles Cappa, who previously oversaw a butterfly exhibit at the Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown.

But stay still if one lands on your arm. Their wings are coated in tiny scales that are easily destroyed if touched.

One thing the butterflies in the exhibit will not be doing is making baby caterpillars. The DEC doesn’t allow the center to hold the plants that the different species use to lay eggs.

“Each female is very specific on what plant she will lay eggs on,” Mr. Cappa said.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A blue morpho butterfly from Costa Rica.