Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory - Events - Life Among the Butterflies

Tales of a BugFeast Intern: I Ate a Bug and I Liked It




Author: Marcel Cormier


We’ve all accidentally eaten bugs before – that time casually riding your bike on a mid-summer’s day and you rode right through a swarm of gnats, swallowing what felt like thousands of little bugs. Or, that time you swallowed 3 spiders while you were sleeping (that’s a legitimate fact, right?)


Well this time I ate a bug on purpose, and I liked it. That’s right, you read that correctly. I ate a bug and I liked it. In fact, what started as one bug turned into many, and now I’ve eaten a wide variety of bugs and bug treats. I never thought this day would come.


Now you might be wondering how I got myself in this predicament, quite frankly I’m asking myself the same thing. What started off as a harmless PR internship at Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory quickly turned into me being peer pressured by my co-workers to eat bugs with them. What a bunch of weirdos.


While being interviewed for the illustrious position of Public Relations Intern, one of the first things mentioned was that I would be doing a lot of the marketing and PR work for the Conservatory’s March Break event. BugFeast has happened nearly every year since the Conservatory’s opening in 2001 and is literally what it sounds like – you come to the Butterfly Conservatory to feast on bugs. To keep things interesting, there’s a new theme every year.


Chocolate is the theme for this year’s event – who doesn’t love chocolate! Chocolate goes with everything, even bugs. The event tempts guests to put their taste buds to the test by sampling three chocolatey bug treats. The chocolate “chirp” cookie (pun intended) is a great starter because you can’t actually see the bugs. It looks and tastes like a normal chocolate cookie, but it’s made with cricket flour (ground up crickets) instead of traditional white flour. Next is a simple milk chocolate with a whole roasted cricket inside (though most have bits of cricket sticking out the sides of the chocolate as an added effect). I personally had the pleasure of making these myself, and I can truly say that they’re one of my best culinary works. Lastly, guests will have the pleasure of eating roasted ants sprinkled on white chocolate bark.


The Slogan for this event literally reads, “Are you brave enough to eat a bug?” – a handful of crickets, mealworms, ants and grasshoppers later, I can confidentially say, I think so.

Continue reading
323 Hits

Holiday Activities for Kids


Insects GO FOR GOLD!

With the Olympics just around the corner, the top athletes of the world are working hard to be the fastest, strongest and go for the gold! For the millions of insects species worldwide they have to be on the top of their game 24/7, 365 days a year. To survive and thrive insects have developed extraordinary physical skills to excel in a competitive world.


 Tiger BeetleFastest Runner:

Imagine being able to run really fast but not be able to see where you're going! This is the case for the world's fastest insect Cicindela hudsoni, an Australian tiger beetle. They can sprint up to 9 km/h covering 120 of its body lengths in a single second! They use their huge eyes to locate and stalk prey. The only pitfall with their speed is that they run so fast that they temporarily go blind! The tiger beetle moves so quickly that their eyes can't gather enough light to form an image of their prey. They have to stop and spot their prey again before giving chase. To compare the world's fastest man, Usain Bolt covers just 5 body lengths per second. To match the beetle, he’d have to run at 772 km/h!


Horned Dung BeetleStrongest Insect:

Until recently the crown for the world's strongest insect went to the Rhinoceros Beetle capable of lifting an incredible 850 times its body weight. This crown was newly usurped by the Horned Dung Beetle, capable of pulling an astounding 1141 times its own weight! This is the equivalent of a 150-pound person lifting six full double-decker buses! These beetles have developed extraordinary strength to compete for mates. Males uses their horns to battle rival males away from the females. In terms of the greatest weight lifted by an animal the African elephant no doubt comes out on top of the podium but in terms of strength to body size ratios the dung beetle takes the gold horns down!


Common FroghopperHighest Jumper:

Life can be difficult when you're small and trying to jump to get something on the highest shelf. It wouldn't be so hard if you were an insect called a Common Froghopper, Philaenus spumarius also known as the spittlebug. This tiny insect is only 6 millimetres in length and can jump as high as 70cm, that is 115 times the length of its body!

Froghoppers have a novel way of jumping they catapult themselves through the air. Using two large muscles to catapult themselves, they lock their short back legs in a way that they hold their jumping muscles until they have enough energy to break the lock and send the froghopper flying! The human record for high jump is 2.45m by Cuba's Javier Sotomayor. If Javier could jump like a froghopper he would be able to jump to the top of a 210 metre tall building!


Come learn about these amazing insect record holders and more at the Conservatory until Sunday, January 8th, 2018 during our Holiday Activites for Kids!

Continue reading
578 Hits

Meet Cheecho the Conure!


Meet Cheecho the Conure!


Ever since Cheecho, a young tropical parrot, came to live with us almost 10 years ago, he has become a popular character in the Conservatory. Cheech is a young male Green-cheeked Conure, a small parrot from the continent of South America. 

Children love to say "hi Cheecho" and hear him repeat his name, and even sometimes watch him dance to his favourite tune!

Here's some fun Cheecho trivia as we celebrate his birthday this month. Answers can be found by scrolling below. Come meet Cheecho yourself this weekend on Sunday Nov 5 at his annual Birthday Party!

1. How long can Cheecho live to be? a) 10 years, b) 30 years, c) 100 years

2. True or False: you can tell Cheecho is a male and not a female by the colour of his wing feathers?

3. Green-cheeked Conures are a group of small parrots found where in the wild: a) South America, b) Australia, c) Asia

4. True or False: Cheecho loves to eat anything from mango & banana, to sunflower seeds and walnuts, to beans and broccoli!

5. Individuals are able to mate and breed after being how old: a) 1 year, b) 3 years, c) 5 years

6. True or False: If Cheecho were to stop eating fruit, the green colour of his feathers would fade. 

7. Cheecho's favourite song is: a) "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", b) "Pennies From Heaven", c) "Row Row Row Your Boat"

8. True or False: Cheecho has been learning some new tricks for his birthday!



See the answers below!



Answers to Cheecho Trivia
1 b) Hopefully we'll be celebrating Cheecho's birthday for another 15 - 20 years!
2 False - It is very difficult to tell males from females; usually only a vet can determine this.
3 a) Central & South America
4 True - Many tropical fruits, seeds, nuts, and some greens are eaten by conures.
5 a) Conures only have to be 1 year old before they can mate.
6 True - Most birds get their green, red and yellow colour from pigments in the food they eat, like fruit and berries.
7 c) Try singing "Row Row Row Your Boat" to Cheecho next visit and see if he dances for you!
8 True - and he looks forward to showing off his new tricks for you this weekend at his Birthday Party!


Continue reading
747 Hits

Going "Bear" Hunting?


How to Care for a Bear

Raising any caterpillar to watch the life cycle is a rewarding, educational experience. Woolly Bears are cute & fuzzy caterpillars that are active this time of year, making them easy to find. And they're quite easy to raise!

Here's your how-to guide for caring for a Bear!

Step 1: Find a Woolly Bear

It’s not hard to find a Woolly Bear: they love weeds like dandelion and goldenrod which are abundant in this area. You may even see one crossing the street, don't feel ashamed to stop the car and go collect the Woolly Bear (of course doing so safely). We brake for Woolly Bears all the time!

Step 2: Set up a Terrarium

Use a terrarium or container that has holes or mesh for a lid, and make sure the container is big enough for the Bears to wander around. Put 1/2 - 1" of soil in the bottom and keep it evenly moist (but never wet). Keep the terrarium outside, at least at night (read on to find out why).

Step 3: Care for Your Bear

Woolly bears are not picky eaters. You can feed them the leaves of almost anything you'd call a weed, like dandelion, plantain, burdock, goldenrod, etc. Add more food regularly (every 1 - 2 days), and clean out the caterpillar frass (aka poop) as it collects. If you're keeping the terrarium outside at least at night, the Bears will naturally stop eating and begin to hibernate on their own. After the temperatures stay cold enough that your Bear stops waking up, take out all old food and stop feeding.

Step 4: Prepare Your Bear for Winter

Add some fallen leaves or small pieces of wood that your Bear can curl up under. Your Woolly Bear will want to sleep undisturbed in a cold spot all winter long. Remember, it needs to stay outside! It may seem harsh to leave it out in the cold, but that's what your Woolly Bear needs.

Step 5: Check & Mist as Necessary

Check on your Bear periodically to make sure the container and the contents stay moist. Keeping the container outside helps with this, but if it does get dry you can occasionally mist the terrarium.

Step 6: Whence comes the spring...

When the temperatures go up your Bear will begin to wake up so you need to start feeding it again. Keep feeding your bear until it stops eating on its own. Eventually the caterpillar will make a fuzzy cocoon, and in 2-3 weeks it will emerge as a lovely Isabella Tiger Moth! Check the terrarium frequently and be sure to release the moth after it emerges and dries its wings.


CLICK HERE for more information on Woolly Bear Weekends!


Continue reading
787 Hits

On Now: Butterflies of India & South Asia


Butterflies of India & South Asia - A Special Exhibition

We are very excited to feature a special exhibition of freely-flying Butterflies from India & South Asia. India is home to approximately 1,800 species and subspecies of butterflies. Of those species between 15-20% are native to the area. This makes India a hotspot for butterfly diversity and conservation. A few of the butterflies to look out for flying in our conservatory include:

Common Lime Swallowtail

Papilio demoleus

This beautiful butterfly is sure to catch your eye in the Conservatory with its checkered patterning! The name of a butterfly can tell you a lot about it. In the case of the lime swallowtail their name describes the citrus host plants they lay their eggs on. Unlike most swallowtails they do not have tails on their wings as their name would otherwise suggest. They are known to be strong fliers and even change their mode of flight depending on the time of day which they are flying. In the cooler morning they have a slow flight and as it heats up they will fly straight and low making them a great butterfly to look out for. In the hottest part of the day you can find them on wet patches of ground imbibing the moisture and staying motionless unless disturbed.

Blue Clipper

Parthenos sylvia

The blue clipper is an exceptionally widely distributed butterfly being found across India and South Asia to the Philippines and Papua New Guinea. Powerful and fast flyers, they alternate between short bursts of gliding to rapid wing beats, you'll definitely know one if you see one! Both males and females can often be seen feeding on lantana. Males can also be seen landing on the wet ground where they suck up the fluids to obtain necessary nutrients. We call this behaviour 'puddling'.

Malay Cruiser

Vindula dejone

Cruising around the Conservatory, you are certain to spot this bold butterfly. Males and females are different colours, the males are a bright orange and the females are grey with a white band. Males can usually be seen puddling on the wet ground. They like to feed on rotting fruit and when feeding usually keep their wings spread open. They are not a shy butterfly and you can get nice and close to take a look while they feed on lantana in the Conservatory.

Continue reading
1244 Hits

Monarch Population Status Update


It has been a banner summer for the Monarch butterfly!


We've been getting a lot of feedback from butterfly enthusiasts across southern Ontario who are all reporting seeing more Monarchs than last year. Certainly we have also observed more butterflies and caterpillars on our milkweed than the last two years combined, which is great considering the delayed spring made for a rather slow start for Monarchs this year.


The annual migration will be starting very soon, if it isn't already slowly taking place. There are still caterpillars and chrysalides out there on wild milkweed, so don't be surprised if you see adult Monarch butterflies right until the end of September. Over the next few weeks, adult Monarchs will begin a 4000-5000 km one-way journey to the Transvolcanic Mountain range in Mexico where they will overwinter.


While it seems like there's been an increase in their numbers this summer, it's still important to remember that the Monarch population has experienced a huge decrease over the last 15-20 years. It is still currently listed as a species of Special Concern on the Species at Risk (SAR) list, although it has been recommended by the COSEWIC committee to be listed as endangered.


Because of citizen science projects like the tagging program through MonarchWatch, we are able to have information and gather data on the Monarch population. Tagging adult Monarchs before they begin their migration is one of the best ways to help scientists monitor population dynamics.


Don't know what tagging a Monarch looks like? Watch our video below and come out to our annual event, Monarch Tagging Weekend! Learn more about the amazing story of the monarch butterfly, their migration, and how you can help.


Continue reading
742 Hits

OVO: An Immersive Tour | Cirque du Soleil


Cirque du Soleil: OVO Ticket Giveaway

Cirque du Soleil OVO is coming to The First Ontario Centre in Hamilton, and we’re giving away free tickets!

How to Enter:

Visit Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory on May 14th (Mother’s Day) and receive a ballot with the purchase of admission. Draw will be made May 14th at 5:00pm, and we will contact the winner by email.

Purchase of admission to the Conservatory required, one ballot per admission.

“Rush Headlong into a New Ecosystem”

Immerse yourself in the fascinating world of insects – amazing ants, flexible fleas, and crazy crickets play, work, fight, and look for love in this non-stop show of energy in motion. OVO is teeming with life, and the insects get intensely curious when a mysterious egg appears…

Where: FirstOntario Centre

When: June 7-11, 2017



Continue reading
1635 Hits

How to Tag a Migratory Monarch

How to Tag a Migratory Monarch

Today the story of the Monarch's epic fall migration to Mexico is commonly told and taught in classrooms across North America. One can almost take it for granted that this is common knowledge today, but it actually wasn't that long ago that no one knew where the Monarchs disappeared to for the winter.

Most of our native insects overwinter in a part of their life cycle that is convenient for them to go into diapause (kind of like hibernation): usually the egg or chrysalis (cocoon) stage, sometimes the larval (caterpillar stage), even occasionally the adult insect. But the Monarch does not overwinter in any stage. Up until only 40 years ago, no one knew where the Monarch went.

Thanks to the inquisitive mind and tireless efforts of Dr. Urqhart and his wife, they discovered the Monarch's secret by placing tags on the wings of the butterflies. It started out as a small piece of paper with a simple code. People were asked to watch for these tagged monarchs and report where and when they saw them. Over years of doing this research, eventually a tagged monarch was found in the Sierra Madre mountain range 10,000 feet above sea level in the oyamel fir forests of Mexico.

Today people still tag monarchs, and it's not just done by professional scientists. Anyone can participate by purchasing tags and filling out the data sheet from the research group " MonarchWatch and tagging butterflies in their own yards. This citizen science research is still one of the main ways we're learning about Monarch migration pathways and factors affecting their population levels. It's a fun, educational, meaningful way to learn more about the wondrous animal that is the Monarch as well as contributing to valuable scientific research.

Join us for Monarch Tagging Weekend September 10th and 11th!

Back to Life Among the Butterflies

Continue reading
1741 Hits

Morning Yoga in the Conservatory

Morning Yoga in the Conservatory
Le Lam

Few of our guests have had the chance to experience the Conservatory in the early hours of the morning. The sense of stillness in the air is peaceful, the birds and butterflies just beginning to awaken, the quails wandering sleepily across the paths. Add in a calming meditation and vinyasa yoga practice, and your day is off to a great start.

Practicing yoga in the morning is great for physical, mental, and emotional health. "Morning practice can heighten our productivity and alertness throughout the rest of the day. Yoga postures gently massage the internal organs and boosts the body’s metabolism. After being awakened, the digestive system is far more efficient at releasing toxins and properly metabolizing the vitamins and minerals from our foods," says Le Lam, Certified Yoga Instructor. "Just as importantly, a morning practice is a great way to know you've done something for yourself before you start taking care of others."

We're lucky to have such a beautiful atmosphere to practice in, and Le's class is a welcome change from a typical studio practice. "One of the tips to create a life you love is to 'make a nature date,'" says Le. "Nature inspires awareness, tolerance, acceptance... and nothing is better than a breath of fresh air. As a very close replica of nature, the Conservatory is a great place to practice yoga."

When asked how the Conservatory's tropical temperatures affect the session, Le says, "at 25-28°C, the warm temperatures are a nice help to speed up the warm-up segment and enhance the whole practice."

Join us every Wednesday morning through to August 31st. Click here to register.

Back to Life Among the Butterflies

Continue reading
2244 Hits