Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Birdwing Jackpot

Troides rhadamantus, the Golden Birdwing is one of the most recent species added to our Tropical Butterfly House permit. The pupae are expensive but the butterflies are flashy and Life Sciences Manager, Sarah Moore feels that buying five or six of them a year brightens up the place.

Little did she expect Pacific Science Center would someday hit the Birdwing Jackpot as we did earlier this week!

Because PSC holds permits for a variety of insects, we are occasionally contacted when mis-sent bugs need a good home. This was the case when Sarah got a call from the Los Angeles International Airport Department of Fish and Wildlife. LAX had confiscated a shipment of 120 Birdwing butterfly pupae. These spectacular butterflies were unintentionally being shipped to a facility that did not have a permit to fly them.

Sometimes agencies have to enforce rules but want to be flexible. This was such a case. The Birdwing pupae could not be sent back to the original destination. Sending them back to their place of origin, the Philippines, would essentially doom them to days of transit, during which they most likely would perish.

Not wanting to see these lovely creatures destroyed, the agent responsible for them started calling around for exhibits that were allowed to have them. They are on our permit and we were delighted to accept the pupae. After a little paperwork, they arrived by FedEx the next day.

Because time had already been lost, some of the pupae had begun to emerge before we got them. We placed some of the more fragile pupae in “hospitals,” small, netted containers that can still give them a chance to emerge. But most, about 2/3 of them, are alive, healthy, viable – and huge. We look forward to seeing these gigantic, colorful, bold butterflies gracing our butterfly house.

Best of all, these butterflies are people friendly. So for the next few weeks, be sure to bring your camera when you visit our Tropical Butterfly House. The Birdwings will be putting on a show!

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