Feature by Marthe Hensmann
An exotic rainforest with tropical blossoms, a splashing waterfall and spectacular butterflies - you don’t have to fly hundreds of miles to see the "real thing". It’s all here, right on our doorstep.
Stratford Butterfly Farm offers a tropical environment where butterflies of nearly every colour and size fly around and might even make a stopover on your shoulder - if you are lucky and hold still. But please refrain from touching these delicate creatures as this might harm them.
Have a look at the tropical paradise
The images button below will take you through a gallery of photos from the Butterfly Farm.
The tropical flight area
Currently the Farm hosts about 1,600 butterflies of over 80 different species. Many of them regularly land on special nectar feeding tables placed throughout the farm.
The main flight area takes you past lush hibiscus and citrus plants towards the waterfall and the small pond filled with koi carp.
Hundreds of pupae in the Caterpillar Room
No wonder then that the humidity level reaches tropical dimensions - slowing you down, to say the least. But this was probably due to the fact that my visit coincided with one of the hottest days of the year which let the temperature inside the farm climb towards 33 degrees celsius.
The emergence case
Leaving this exotic landscape, and its fluttering inhabitants, you come to the Caterpillar Room. Here you can have a close look at nature’s strange work that lets the ever-hungry caterpillar turn into a pupa. After a few weeks the transformation is complete with the beautiful butterfly finally seeing the light of day.
Bugs and ants in Insect City
Hundreds of pupae hang in emergence cases. Some butterflies and moths have already emerged, you can see them drying their wings before they finally fly off for the last few weeks of their lives.
The spectacular "Blue Morpho"
Admiring the butterflies in all their forms, one visitor told me: "This is a good chance to see them so close. The children have been especially fascinated with the cocoons. We really like it."
If you are more of a daring kind you shouldn’t miss Insect City, the home of a range of insects - from the hard-working leaf-cutter ants to other mini-beasts such as bugs, crabs and millipedes.
Creepy Crawlies in Arachnoland
We aim to foster the love of butterflies. And we also have a strong educational element.
John Calvert, managing director
There are some more creepy crawlies in Arachnoland. As you have probably already guessed this part of the farm houses those "spinners of webs and dealers of death", aka spiders and scorpions.
The giant orb spiders whose silk is used for bullet-proof clothing, the goliath bird-eating spider with 25 cm span and the infamous black widow spider and many more of these terrifying creatures are here.
Inside the Butterfly Farm
The colony of huge black scorpions is also fascinating. There is still a mystery surrounding scorpions as no one knows why all of them glow under UV-light.
"We aim to foster the love of butterflies. And we also have a strong educational element," said managing director John Calvert. "More than 15,000 schoolkids visit us each year. We do a lot of hands-on stuff, for example let them hold a tarantula, to make them aware of their benefits and uses."
Working against the negative insect image
The biggest spiders are the safest,their sting not worse than a severe bee sting.
"We want to something against the negative insect image the kids get through the cinema. This is a lot of rubbish."
"Only five out of 35,000 spiders are actually dangerous to humans. And the biggest spiders are the safest, their sting not worse than a severe bee sting. But if the truth is not told these things can develop into phobias."
Lush tropical flowers
The Butterfly Farm is also engaged in various conservation and community projects but according to John Calvert, "we don’t make the conservation aspect that public".
On a weekly basis, the Farm receives thousands of pupae from their breeding partners in the tropics. They are then either kept or send off to other zoo-licenced institutions around the world, such as the San Diego Zoo.
Important conservation work
"To breed the butterflies you have to conserve the resources," said John. "This is why we never collect any rare species."
In the wild only two to four eggs survive out of the 200 a female butterfly lays. Only those pupae that would otherwise be lost are being harvested.
The projects are spread over 18 different countries, such as the Phillipines, Malaysia and Pakistan, and guarantee the local population a regular income. "Through our work we employ around 50 families in Costa Rica alone", he added.
For directions and prices see the facts box on the left.