Anand Shah held his mother’s hand when taking his first step in the Butterfly House, but quickly released her hand to walk over and watch butterflies fluttering in the air and clinging to flowers.
It was Shah and his family’s first time visiting the Suffolk County Farm and Educational Center in Yaphank to walk through a butterfly habitat.
“Some butterflies are colorful, just like how my grandpa and grandma like, and some are all white,” said Shah, 5, of Oakdale. “They’re cool.”
The Butterfly House is open Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays until Aug. 31 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Kelsey White, environmental sciences program coordinator at the center, guides student groups and families through the outdoor center, but her favorite place is where the butterflies live.
“When you come in here it’s like you’re in a different place. It’s just so peaceful,” said Babylon's White, 25, of the Butterfly House, which opened 15 years ago. “It’s a really great place for the public to see native butterflies, native plants and get up close and personal with them.”
When students come, she teaches them how to better use their senses in nature, as well as the life cycle of butterflies and their importance to the ecosystem.
“They’re seeing colors, they’re smelling flowers, so they’re really getting a hands-on experience using their senses and connecting with nature,” White said. “We want them to learn about their life, and the beneficial plants that they need and really the importance of butterflies. They are not just beautiful, but really beneficial.”
White said she was most impressed by how butterflies transition throughout their three months of life and their defense mechanisms. For example, when swallowtail caterpillars are disturbed, they poke out orange horns, which release a foul odor, she said.
Joseph Caso’s favorite part of the house was seeing butterflies suck the nectar from flowers.
“It looks like they have a long tongue and a straw and they’re sucking it up,” said Caso, 9, of Selden, who will be a fourth grader at New Lane Memorial Elementary School in the fall. “[In school] we bought caterpillars and a habitat and we watched them turn into butterflies from chrysalises.”
Maryann Nicoletti found the beauty of the butterfly house breathtaking from the moment she walked in through the screened-in door. She explored the habitat, noticing two monarch butterflies mating, others circling or pollinating flowers, and some dangling from the ceiling.
“I was very impressed by how beautiful it was,” said Nicoletti, of Smithtown. “I was surprised to hear that the life of the butterflies isn’t really that long. I would come back here and I would bring my small nieces and nephews because I think they would really enjoy it and learn from it.”