Nicholas LaNovara, 2, held a paintbrush-like stick with a sponge on the end that had been soaked in banana water, coconut water or red Gatorade. He was on a mission to attract a Painted Lady.
That’s the name of the 125 orange and black butterflies swirling inside a new pop-up greenhouse in Babylon village open through May 9. "We loved it," says Nicholas’ mother, Stephanie, 37, of Wantagh, who works in operations. "Even my 2-year-old was able to hold the butterfly."
The Butterflies in Babylon attraction, which costs $5 per person to enter, is a fundraiser for Long Island charities and way to attract more attention to the three adjacent Main Street businesses sponsoring the event in the shared outdoor courtyard behind their stores — Hitch, which carries artisan crafts, The Babylon Mercantile, a cooking and kitchen items center, and The Boutique, a woman’s clothing store, says Hitch owner Joseph DeBello. Jonah’s Garden of North Bellmore supplied the plants, he says.
Visitors are given their "butterfly sticks" and enter the 8-foot-by-10-foot greenhouse one family group at a time. "It was a lovely, floral, lush atmosphere," says Madeline Lunz, 39, a stay-at-home mother from Babylon who brought her two 7-year-old sons, Jack and Duke. The boys also enjoyed posing for photos outside the greenhouse in front of a set of painted butterfly wings, Lunz says.
DeBello tries to answer any questions families have about the butterflies. "The kids were saying it was really warm in there," says Candice Catalano, 34, a financial insurance broker from Farmingdale who attended with a friend and the friend’s two children. DeBello explained to them that the greenhouse has to be kept at 75 degrees for the butterflies to be able to fly; at night when it’s colder the butterflies are dormant.
The exhibit also has larvae and caterpillars; DeBello says he took a Zoom class to learn how to care for the butterflies, which are similar to Monarch butterflies but smaller.
"It was a really nice experience for an adult and through the eyes of a child," Catalano says.
Because the life span of a butterfly is from two to four weeks, the greenhouse will be getting an additional 50 butterflies per week, DeBello says. The greenhouse opens at 11 a.m. daily, and closes at 5 p.m. every day but Sunday, when it shuts down at 4 p.m. If no one is waiting for a turn, visitors can stay as long as they like, DeBello says, but when there is a line, groups will be limited to three minutes inside the greenhouse to keep the line moving.
Kari Indusi, 36, an attorney from Massapequa, says she and her husband and their 3-year-old son, Joey, browsed the stores while they waited their turn to see the butterflies. "He wanted to stay there all day," Indusi says of Joey. "I give it a million thumbs-up. We’ll definitely be back."