The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Butterfly House at Texas Discovery Gardens

Valerie Villanueva and her daughter Mariam spotting butterflies.
Abril Murillo
Valerie Villanueva and her daughter Mariam spotting butterflies.

Valerie Villanueva and her daughter Mariam spotting butterflies. (Abril Murillo)

The temperature was about 85 degrees; you could smell the wet soil and feel the humidity rising from the ground. A svelte man with glasses and a long ponytail emerged from the side door carrying a net.

“OK everybody gather around, we will release the butterflies now. Does anybody know how long a butterfly lives?” asked the man to a crowd composed mostly of children.

“I think they live 20 days!” said an eager child.

“That’s pretty close actually, they live about 14 days,” said John Watts, the man holding the net.

That’s right, 14 days to born, grow, reproduce and die. This is something not many people know about butterflies and that Watts, the entomologist at the Texas Discovery Gardens, teaches everyday.

Texas Discovery Gardens is located at Fair Park, and is open year-round.

The gardens’ focus is to teach visitors how to garden organically and sustainably, and how to conserve and preserve nature in an urban environment.

The most popular attraction inside the gardens is the Rosine Smith Sammons Butterfly House and Insectarium. This is home to about 800 different species of butterflies from all over the world and other creatures – like “Poo”. Poo is one of the gentile tarantulas inside the lab that seems to enjoy to be petted by Watts.

Most of the butterflies come from butterfly farms,” said Sarah Gardner, the head of the public relations and marketing.

Since most of the butterfly farms are in different states and countries, the government asked the gardens to have an automatic double door system to prevent butterflies from leaving the facility.

If a non-native butterfly escapes, it would be very dangerous for the environment. These insects are considered a type of pest and there are some that feed off citrus plants. Therefore, if they reproduce in large numbers they would damage the harvest of oranges and other fruits.

Marisol Sanchez, the floor manager, helps prevent any of this to happen by managing the building. She has been working in the butterfly house for more than a year.

“I didn’t know about this place. I actually learned about it from one of my professors at UNT [University of North Texas]. I was attracted to this place by learning that they focus in organic sustainability and that’s really important to me,” said Sanchez.

Like Sanchez, many people in Dallas do not hear about the Texas Discovery Gardens. When Gardner was asked why this facility is not as heavily advertised in the same way the aquarium or the zoo is, she said it was because of limited marketing funding.

However, thanks to the increasing use of social media lately, places like the gardens have found a cheaper way to advertise to a bigger audience.

Valerie Villanueva, a visitor, said she found out about the butterfly house through the Internet.

“We are from Lubbock, and we came to visit my daughter’s grandparents so I looked for butterfly places because she loves insects, butterflies [and] nature, and that’s how I came across this place,” said Villanueva while her daughter Mariam was trying to spot as many colorful butterflies as she could.

“This place is breathtaking,” Villanueva added.

When Watts opened the net to release the new butterflies all the children were awed as the photogenic insects began to fly towards the plants adding color to the greenery.

Watts added: “Once we release the butterflies we do not recollect them, this will be their home for the next 14 days, the rest of their lives.”

Butterflies inside Texas Discovery Gardens. (Abril Murillo)

John Watts answering a child’s question. (Abril Murillo)

Small Postman Butterfly inside the Rosine Sammons Butterfly House (Abril Murillo)

John Watts carrying a net with new butterflies. (Abril Murillo)

“Poo” the gentle tarantula. (Abril Murillo)

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