A series featuring our favorite arthropods
Established in 1990 by the Rocky Mountain Consortium, the Butterfly Pavilion is a facility in Westminster that focuses on the care and education of insects, invertebrates and of course…butterflies! While conducting research across the globe, their mission is to protect the thousands of invertebrate species that we share the world with.
A Blue morpho pollinates a flower at the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminister. Photo by Sara Martin | [email protected]
Alongside 237 other zoos and facilities, The Butterfly Pavilion is the first stand-alone invertebrate care facility to be recognized by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to the advancement, education and proper conservation of animal habitat sanctuaries nationwide. AZA also accredits the Denver Zoo, Colorado Wolf & Wildlife Center and Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs.
The term ‘invertebrate’ refers to any animal that lacks a vertebral column, or a spine. They are often characterized by hard exoskeletons. Spiders, worms, crabs and many other crawly insects and worms make up the invertebrate phyla. They may be creepy, but they make up 97% of all animal species on Earth. Without them, entire ecosystems would collapse and many animal species would go extinct.
A Monarch butterfly takes a rest while eating synthetic nectar. Photo by Jonathan Hidalgo | [email protected]
There are five exhibits throughout the eleven-acre site, each offering a plethora of information about a new type of species. Mixing interactive exhibits with thick-walled terrariums, this bug zoo is currently home to hundreds of species. Rosie the tarantula is a local celebrity and visitors will line up for a chance to hold the arachnid. Visitors may also visit the Water’s Edge exhibit to pet the sea stars, horseshoe crabs and visit the mantis shrimp.
Only 750 species of butterflies reside in the United States, however there are more than 17 thousand worldwide. Similar to bees, butterflies are colorful arthropods that are responsible for the pollination of plants. Pollination is the process of transferring the reproductive molecules from one plant to another, which fertilizes them and gives them nutrients to bear fruits and vegetables.
As the world’s only invertebrate zoo, the Butterfly Pavilion aims to foster an appreciation for the invertebrates of the world while actively searching for ways to better support their ecosystems.
A Borboleta butterfly poses on a leaf. Photo by Jonathan Hidalgo | [email protected]
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