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November 2015

"Owls" at the Conservatory

Are there any butterflies active at night?

Ask a biologist what is the difference between a moth and a butterfly, and one of the most common answers will be: "butterflies fly during the day, and most moths fly at night". But did you know that there are some butterflies that become more active as the sun goes down?

One of the most familiar butterflies that prefer to sleep during the day and become active at dusk are the Owl butterflies (Caligo sp.). Their name is inspired by the fake eyespot on their hindwing, but their behaviour is rather similar to owls as well.
 
Because Owl butterflies prefer to fly in low-light conditions, they will also be active at dawn before the sun peeks above the horizon. Animals that are active at dawn or dusk are referred to as crepuscular in habit, as opposed to nocturnal which is strictly active at night.
 
Owl butterflies are not the only crepuscular butterflies, however. There are several groups of tropical butterflies that fly at dusk and sometimes into the night, including the close cousins of the owl butterflies, the Owlets. These are smaller versions of the large Owls, but coloured similarly and displaying fake eyespots.

Skipper butterflies are strong, fast-flying butterflies very common in Ontario wildflower fields. In the tropics, there are some Skippers that prefer to fly in the dark. One has been given the exciting name of Cramer’s Nightfigher (Nascus phocus) which becomes active at dusk to rocket back and forth across pathways as if switched on as soon as darkness falls. 

Some are nicknamed “moth butterflies” for their combination of butterfly and moth-like characteristics, including one family called the American moth butterflies (family Hedylidae). This group has provided much debate for scientists who can’t decide whether to classify them as moths or butterflies. Just another great example of nature providing an exception for every rule we attempt to apply!
 
If you visit the Conservatory on a sunny day, look closely for our Owl butterflies resting amongst the foliage and trees. Or sometimes they’ll be having a drink from the rotten fruit (fermented bananas are their favourite). If you’re visiting on a cloudy day or later in the afternoon as it begins to darken, you’ll be able to see the Owls begin to actively dart around, flying with their strong wing-beats.
 

Butterfly of the Month 


The Giant Owl (Caligo eurilochus) is just one of many owl species in the genus Caligo. Current research suggests that this fake eye causes some of their natural predators like Praying Mantids to aim for the fake eye instead of their head, giving the butterfly a chance to escape. 
Have fun decorating cookies and get a chance to meet Santa & Mrs. Claus! Reserve your tickets online for 1:00 or 3:00 seating. Tickets include milk & cookies, visit with Santa and admission to the Conservatory. Great value and fun photo opportunity for the family!

Starting Dec 5 - Jan 30, 2016

Mountsberg Raptor Show


In honour of the Owl exhibit we currently have on display, our friends at the Mountsberg Raptor Centre will be bringing some feathered friends on Nov 21 & 28 for you to meet! Drop in between 10:30 - 3:30 pm both Saturdays.

Words & Wings Storytime


Back due to popular demand! Weekday Storytime will resume Tuesday - Fridays at 11 a.m. for November & December. Themes change each day. Come for a good story and meet a bug! 

Cheecho's Birthday: This Weekend!


Cheecho, our young parrot, is turning 7 this year! Celebrate with us on Nov 7 & 8 with crafts, activities, free cake & punch all throughout the day (10 am - 4 pm)! Meet Cheecho up close and celebrate with us! Find more details here.
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