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The Butterfly Forest: at MUSE you enter an oasis of wonder

They flutter gracefully immersed in the humid warmth of the large greenhouse that welcomes them. The colors that sparkle and mix, the incredible shades and the lightness of the movements make them fragile and beautiful dancers who, until May 19th, will be the great protagonists of the exhibition Butterfly Forest welcomed into the tropical greenhouse of MUSE, Science Museum of Trento. An event to draw attention to the fragility of a natural system strongly in danger due to climate change, as well as making people dream with a flutter of colored wings.

More than a thousand butterflies arriving from the Tropics

A Caligo, the “owl butterfly” (@MUSE Archive – Science Museum, Trento)

The project was born with the collaboration of AMEAP (Asociación de Mujeres Ecológicas y Artesanas de El Porvenir)an association of women who raise butterflies in a small community in northern Costa Rica, and with the advice of Francesco Barbieri, biologist specialized in entomology, scientific director and founder of the company that manages the Bordano Butterfly House in Udine. «Butterfly farms – explains Barbieri – are one of the few activities to have a positive ecological and economic impact on the territory and on the resident populations: they provide work to the community and offer an alternative to activities with a high environmental impact such as cultivation, breeding and the lumber industry.”

Chrysalises in the incubators and then butterflies in the greenhouse

The nursery that welcomes the chrysalises before their transformation into butterflies

The nursery that welcomes the chrysalises before their transformation into butterflies (@MUSE Archive – Science Museum, Trento)

Beyond thirty species of tropical butterfliesthey are therefore arriving every week from Costa RicaThailand and the Philippines still in their primitive form of chrysalisand day by day, they come to life in the nursery set up in the Trentino museum and then flicker up to the greenhouse where, among the over 200 botanical species present, they will find dozens of flowering plants, such as Pentas and Streptocarpus, ready to provide them with sustenance through nectarine secretions. They are also welcomed by a very pleasant heat that reaches up to 34 degrees accompanied by humidity that reaches 80% and which manages to make them feel at home, surrounded by the right warmth characteristic of their habitats of origin.

The intense blue Morpho Helenor

The intensely blue Morpho Helenor (@MUSE Archive – Science Museum, Trento)

For all visitors, the magic of the flight of these insects with variegated wings, as ephemeral as they are fascinating, and the chance to discover how they are born a caterpillar and die a butterfly. «Celebrate spring with The Butterfly Forest it means recognizing the value of the over 150 thousand specific species of lepidoptera – explains Patrizia Famà, director of the MUSE public programs office. – Butterflies, beautiful and fragile, are effective pollinators and are nourishment for other organisms, such as birds. For us, important sentinels on the health conditions of natural habitats.”

The owl butterfly, the blue one and the poisonous ones

(@MUSE Archive – Science Museum, Trento)

In addition to their contribution to the health of the planet, however, you will have the opportunity to observe them in all their beauty: the amazing Morpho helenorconsidered one of the most spectacular species, arriving from tropical America where it lives, with its deep blue produces an optical effect during flight that disorientates predators. Poisonous ones, like the Idea leuconoewith the typical black and white livery that assimilates deterrent substances directly from the toxic plants it feeds on, and the Cethosia with its toxic substances which, if ingested, give rise to cyanide and represent a deterrent for predators. Or the clever one Caligoagain from Central and South America, known as the owl butterfly for the obvious eye-shaped design on the underside of the wings. «The function of these googly eyes is to scare away potential predators. The adults feed on fruit and fly mostly at sunset” explains Francesco Barbieri who has been studying all the butterflies in the world for 35 years. «Even the splendid one Atrophaneura kotzebuea it is poisonous if ingested. It contains toxic substances that the caterpillar assimilates from the Aristolochia plants it feeds on. One of the peculiarities of this and other venomous species is the slow and exhibitionist flight, which has the aim of making the warning color more visible to potential predators.”

(@MUSE Archive – Science Museum, Trento)

There are around three hundred chrysalises that arrive at MUSE every week, ready to hatch and transform into colorful butterflies chosen for their seasonality and the unique characteristics that distinguish them. «Once they have transformed into butterflies they will live for about a week – concludes Barbieri. – just enough to reproduce. The purpose of their life.”

(@MUSE Archive – Science Museum, Trento)

Source: Vanity Fair

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