By now we hope you’re aware of our upcoming SOAR – Tropical Butterflies at South Coast Botanic Garden exhibit opening April 1, which will include a butterfly pavilion, emergence chamber and a newly planted Garden area. But what does all of that really mean and what can you expect when you visit? We’ve tapped Kraig Anderson, owner of Spineless Wonders, to provide some insight. Spineless Wonders has been designing and building insect and butterfly exhibits for more than 25 years, and is building the pavilion here at the Garden. “We saw a niche that needed to be filled,” said Kraig regarding starting his company. “Institutions wanted to display these animals, but most research on insects is in eradication, and not propagation/husbandry. We assist institutions (museums, zoos, botanic gardens, aquariums, etc.) in creating the exhibit correctly the first time, instead of going back and retrofitting the exhibit to work for the animals.” Kraig and his team have built 50 pavilions and even more stand-alone insect exhibits. We are proud to have them on board with this exhibit, and who better to provide some insight into what we’re planning for SOAR and what YOU can expect when you visit.
Q) How did you get into this line of work?
A) I was an aquarist at the Minnesota Zoo and was approached because of my background in invertebrate biology specializing in entomology to design an insect exhibit for the zoo. After designing and running the “Bugs!” Exhibit there, I left to start Spineless Wonders.
Q) How did you get involved in the project?
A) Since we have been in business for so many years, we have been a name in this niche for a long time. We also do our best to market to institutions that may have an interest in a seasonal, temporary or permanent exhibit to bring in new visitors and show something new to long time visitors.
Q) What makes a good butterfly pavilion?
A) Nectar plants! Nectar plants! Did I say, nectar plants? Also the shape of the exhibit makes a big difference. You need to keep a natural flow for the animals. Again, this increases longevity, etc.
Q) Is there anything unique or of interest about the pavilion you’re building at the Garden?
A) Each exhibit we build is unique for each location. South Coast Botanic Garden’s pavilion has a unique shape and, once the trails and plants are placed will have a flow similar to the shape of a caterpillar. The plants will be as interesting as the insects themselves and a contemporary water feature will also be an additional sensory experience. We work with local growers and suppliers to choose the best plants that will work in a specific region so visitors will be able to view a variety of natives.
Q) Tips for visitors who have never visited a butterfly pavilion before?
A) Soak it all in. Look closely. Not all of the butterflies will be flying at one time. Look for butterflies roosting in trees, drinking from mud puddles, feeding on cut fruit. There’s a lot to take in and enjoy!
Q) What will visitors see in the emergence chamber?
A) You will see adult butterflies emerging from pupae (cocoons and chrysalids). Many different sizes, colors and textures. Seeing them emerge and pumping up their wings is a pretty amazing sight. I’ve been doing this for a long time and emerge thousands of pupae per year, and still find it fascinating!
Q) Your top three rules for people when they are inside?
A) One, enjoy the exhibit!! Two, please don’t touch the butterflies or plants. Three, please don’t take them outside of the exhibit. They have a beautiful safe haven to live their short adult lives within.
SOAR – Tropical Butterflies at South Coast Botanic Garden will be open at the Garden from April 1 through July 31. April 1-4 is Members-Only. Interested in visiting? Reserve your tickets here.
The Garden has remained open to serve the community by being a place to encourage wellness and health through nature and open space. Please help keep us open by considering a gift to the Garden. You can do so here.