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There’s something magical about the idea of being besieged by brightly colored butterflies. But despite my love for all things magical, every spring I have managed to miss the exotic experience that is the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Butterfly Jungle. This year, I’m intent on making it into the tropical aviary during the few weeks all those 30-odd species of butterflies are flitting about.

On February 28, the park received its first shipment of butterfly chrysalides, 500 pupae all the way from Costa Rica. Future shipments will include species from Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. Each one is being cared for by hand until the moment it’s ready to emerge and be released into the botanical aviary. How do you know when they’re ready to come out? Butterfly keeper Sara Schmitt says, “When a butterfly is ready to emerge it will become a darker color,” and “you can actually see them moving inside.”

For some reason, that creeps me out. I’ll avoid looking at them through the thin skin (like those weird creatures from The Beastmaster), and wait until they are free to flap their fascinating, beautiful wings. You’ll be able to catch them (and I plan to) from March 16 through April 7.

I love how the park is including interactive observation activities surrounding the pretty bugs. There will be an Instagram photo contest (I’m all over that), Pinterest contest (I’m not on Pinterest, I heard it was more for crafty moms than devilish divas), a Tweet-up (on St. Patrick’s Day), a preview dinner, and a whole bunch more.

For the latest updates, I recommend you track #ButterflyJungle on your Twitter and Instagram feeds. Chances are, I'll have a few posts popping up there. That is, if I can get my photographic artist husband to take the shots for me.

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Comments

HonestGovernment March 3, 2013 @ 1:16 p.m.

Barbarella, Actually, the transformation of the Monarch chrysalis is beautiful. The outer shell is clear. The early stage of the chrysalis looks like a jade carving, then becomes dark bluish as the black and orange parts of the butterfly develop. Here are some pics.

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Barbarella Fokos March 4, 2013 @ 11:11 a.m.

Wow, that IS lovely. Thank you for posting these! :)

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HonestGovernment March 4, 2013 @ 1:05 p.m.

Thanks. I also meant to say that the morphed caterpillars don't actually move around inside the chrysalis, because they can't! As they develop from a soft green caterpillar blob into a butterfly with distinct body parts, they are packed inside the chrysalis case so tightly and economically that movement would be impossible. It's amazing to watch them emerge: The chrysalis case splits near the bottom and the wet butterfly comes out head first, with its legs trying to grab on to the case. The legs feel around until they can grab the case firmly along some ridges on the case, and the butterfly pulls itself out and turns itself head up, holding on to the case as seen in the last pic.

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