One Tank Trip

One Tank Trip: Butterfly Atrium at Hershey Gardens

HERSHEY, Pa. - If you would have asked Siri what the temperature was Wednesday afternoon, she would have told you it's 44 degrees, but inside the Hershey Gardens, it's about 82.

"It's a warm oasis away from the cold, the wind and the snow and the sleet outside," shared Dan Babbitt, associate director at Hershey Gardens. "We keep it always equatorial, so it's about 82 degrees. The humidity is in the mid-70s and it's bright and sunny. We have lots of light."

Apparently, butterflies and I like the same kind of living. You'll be among 600 of them at the Butterfly Atrium at Hershey Gardens, which opened in July 2016.

It's one of only 25 year-round tropical butterfly atriums in the United States, and it's home to butterflies from all around the world.

"These aren't tame. They are wild animals that we have," Babbitt explained. "They are ones that aren't dangerous for us to walk through. Butterflies are a perfect introduction to insects for a lot of people."

You might catch one as it's emerging in the chrysalis cabinet. It's how they come to live here. Babbitt buys and brings in about 99 percent of the butterflies.

"We rely on mom and pop farms, really, so it's people who instead of raising chickens are raising butterflies in Costa Rica, Malaysia. They package those up and send them to us." Babbitt explained.

A FedEx delivery of an insect we can learn from. There is likely 10 to 30 million species of insects alive today.

"They are kind of a good sign, an indicator of how healthy an environment is," Babbitt said.

Babbit was holding an atlas moth, which is about the size of a bird, from southeast Asia. The movement it starts to make as you hold it means she's about to take flight.

"They are so big, they have to get their muscles going," Babbitt explained. "You'll see a lot of the same behaviors that I'm seeing in here. You'd see out in nature in the way the butterflies fly, the height, even landing on people. I had owl butterflies landing on me out in the jungle."

At the Butterfly Atrium, they are in their wild, natural state from all around the world in Hershey, Pennsylvania. And just so we remember where we are, Babbitt showed us a tree.

"So this is our cocoa tree," he said.

The tree where chocolate comes from. Butterflies with a sweet tooth.0


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