The nature center propagates hundreds of butterflies each year for the festival and releases some of them into the open air each day for visitors’ enjoyment.
But this year there will be an even more exciting opportunity to get “up close and personal” with the winged creatures in The Butterfly Encounter, an enclosed walk-through exhibit filled with more than 250 free-flying butterflies.
Inside the lightweight enclosure, visitors can offer the butterflies some of the insects’ favorite foods.
“We will have little cups filled with cotton balls soaked in nectar as well as some pieces of fresh fruit, which they also like,” said Henning von Schmeling, operations senior director for the nature center.
While people hold the cups or fruit, butterflies will touch down for a snack, he said.
While children are always delighted to get so close to a butterfly, parents should let them know it is unacceptable to grab for the dainty creatures.
“Most people are pretty cautious, which is necessary because butterflies are very fragile,” von Schmeling said. “There will be volunteers stationed inside the exhibit to remind people that touching is allowed with one finger only.”
He hopes to have as many as 600 butterflies ready for the festival. Timing the propagation is critical, and the recent record-breaking heat will speed up the process somewhat, von Schmeling said. “But it’s not going to be bad because butterflies live two to three weeks after they hatch.”
Species being nurtured for the festival are Zebra Longwings, Painted Ladies, Giant Swallowtails, Black Swallowtails and Gulf Fritillaries. No Monarchs or Queens, von Schmeling said, because those species are very susceptible to a virus and the nature center doesn’t want to risk loosing any infected creatures into the wild.
The two-day event also features live music, an opportunity to create arts and crafts, butterfly face painting and entomology exhibits.
Kids can dress in costumes and wear their butterfly wings and antenna to march in butterfly parades at the conclusion of festivities each day. Butterfly-attracting pollinator and host plants will be on sale for gardeners.
Expert photographers will be available to help festivalgoers capture images of the winged creatures. Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $10 for the general public, $8 for nature center members, and free for children age 2 and younger. Car pooling is strongly suggested. Additional parking is available at the St. Francis School on Willeo Road just south of Ga. Hwy 120. A free shuttle bus service is provided. The nature center is at 9135 Willeo Road, Roswell. For more information, call (770) 992-2055 ext. 236 or go to www.chattnaturecenter.org.