Carolyn Marshall has been coming to the Lorain County Metroparks' Miller Nature Preserve a few times each year for about the last five years, and usually she introduces someone to the wonders found there.
On this hot summer day, Marshall brought her friend and former colleague, Dolores Lucas. The twoNorth Olmsted residents are retired nuns from the Humility of Mary and were on the faculty at Rocky River’s Magnificat High School for many years.
Marshall showed Lucas the Butterfly House — a refuge for about seven different species of butterflies from Ohio and the southern United States including the Monarch, the Buckeye, the Queen, the Julia, and the White Peacock, in an array of colors.
"It's a beautiful spot," Marshall said of the Butterfly House and preserve. "To be up close and personal with butterflies doesn't happen that often. If you stand really still, they might land on you."
From mid-June through Labor Day the Butterfly House is open from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.daily. Visitors can see different types of butterflies up close and learn which food and flowers they can plant to help butterflies thrive in their own yards.
Admission to the preserve and Butterfly House is free, but it costs $2 to go inside the conservatory The Miller Road Nature Preserve is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week, except Christmas and New Year's.
When Lucas entered the Butterfly House, her sentiments echoed Carolyn's.
"It's beautiful," Lucas said. "I think it's the most beautiful thing I've seen — I never knew it was here. I think it's a jewel, and a lot of people don't even know it's here."
The Butterfly House also houses some caterpillars where butterflies hatch from their chrysalis. A butterfly's lifespan is only about three to four weeks, except for a Monarch that can live for about six months after migrating to Mexico, said Leslie McNutt, a naturalist for the Lorain County Metroparks who has managed the Butterfly House since it opened in 2012. The Zebra Long Wings and Julias from the south eat pollen and live a little longer, McNutt said.
They taste flowers with their feet by unrolling their proboscis and then drink the nectar. Butterflies prefer flat-topped flowers such as daisies or marigolds. Butterflies also like Milkweed, dill and sugar water. If kids put sugar water on the end of a Q-tip and hold it up, the butterflies often will land on it, said Debbie Dowdell, a volunteer for the Lorain County Metroparks, who usually works inside but has been working outside in the Butterfly House. They also use mud to obtain nutrients and minerals.
"They are graceful," Dowdell said of the butterflies. "They are so many different colors, they're just beautiful. It's sad they don't have a longer lifespan."
Many of the butterflies come from Butterfly Dan's in Kissimmee, Florida. The preserve also hosts butterfly catching events.
A butterfly feeding event will be at the preserve from 11 a.m. to noon on Aug. 10, and a butterfly catching event will be from 11 a.m. to noon on Aug. 13 at the Lorain County Black River Reservation's Bur Oak picnic area, 6150 Ford Road, Elyria.
“You just always learn something about them,” McNutt said. “We discovered that the Monarchs migrate to Mexico after we started tagging them by placing a paper disc with a number on them under their wing."
At the age of 13 months, Kennedy Long, was getting introduced to the Butterfly House. The small Westlake resident was there with her mother, Bethany, and brothers Jackson, 12, and Carter, 10, and sister McKinley, 7.
"It's beautiful here," Bethany Long said. "We've been coming here for years at least a couple times each summer. We like to watch the butterflies. The best time to come here is on a hot summer day."
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