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Scavenger hunt used to prolong butterfly life

Visitors can assist researchers with butterfly conservation

Visitors to the Butterfly Pavilion can get a taste of what it’s like to be a lepidopterist or butterfly scientist with a relaunching of an interactive activity. 

Butterfly Quest, a butterfly scavenger hunt, was relaunched on January 13th and helps the pavilion’s scientists uncover new findings regarding invertebrate conservation. 

“Invertebrates make up 97% of all animal species so usually, you think about conserving and protecting the larger animals that you’re more familiar with but then you have these tiny creatures that are the foundation of life on earth,” said Director of Communications and Marketing at Butterfly Pavilion, Jennifer Quermann. 

When participating in Butterfly Quest, guests enter the Wings of the Tropics conservatory and are transported to the world of butterflies. Hundreds of butterflies flutter around, perch on tree branches and snack on grapefruit. 

Visitors scan a QR code using a smartphone that directs them to an observation form. Guests then search for butterflies with colored number tags on their wings and complete the form with an observed behavior and optional photo submission. 

The observations made by guests provide researchers with insight that assists a study on longevity. Butterfly Pavilion aims to utilize the quest’s observations to harbor a healthy environment in which butterflies can flourish and fulfill their lifespan. 

Most butterflies live an average of two to three weeks, although the range varies greatly between species. At the pavilion, however, the longest-living tracked butterfly lived over ten months. 

In order to replicate this length of life in other butterflies, butterfly scientists aim to share the knowledge received through Butterfly Quest with other zoos around the world in an attempt of conserving invertebrates with proper animal care in facilities. 

“If there's a decrease in butterflies, regardless of what the species is, it indicates that the ecosystems aren’t healthy,” Quermann said. 

Butterflies and other invertebrates are key upholders of the earth’s ecosystems, through their pollination powers. A loss of plant life would ensue with the loss of butterflies and cause a negative shift in the food chain, according to Quermann. 

The research being conducted at the Butterfly Pavilion like Butterfly Quest is intended to prevent the crash of an ecosystem and a surge in invertebrate wellness. 

“They’re the unsung heroes that are sometimes underappreciated, understudied and not entirely understood so our mission is to foster an appreciation of invertebrates and to educate the public,” Quermann said. 

The Butterfly Quest is available at no extra cost to visitors of the Butterfly Pavilion and is available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.