The Butterfly Garden

Shore Excursions from La Romana

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  • Beautiful Butterffly Garden
    Learn about the amazing butterflies in the Dominican Republic
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  • monarch butterfly small Giant Swallowtails
    Largest Butterfly in the La Romana area.
  • giant swallowtail small More Swallowtails
     
  • lemon butterfly small Limon Butterfly
     
  • zebra longwing small Zebra Longwing
     
  • malachite small Malachite
     
  • gulf small Gulf Fritillary
     
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The Butterfly & Hummingbird Gardens

... wings of life....

The butterfly and hummingbird gardens occupy a large area on our Jungle Ranch. With more than 1500m2 (14000 ft2) of enclosed gardens ... the largest in the Dominican Republic. All butterflies in the garden are raised on the ranch and -obviously- we only have species that occur in the wild in our region. We always have butterflies, but in the butterfly season - from April to November- you can see hundreds of butterflies of 10-15 different species in the gardens.

Almost instantly you will be surrounded by the fluttering Caribbean butterflies. You can share their world as they fly, court, mate, sip nectar or rest in the light showing off their fascinating colors and patterns. The butterfly may even mistake you for a flower and land on your head, shoulders or arms. Our knowledgeable guides will be on hand to answer any of your butterfly questions and to share the experience of the butterfly life-cycle with you - a scene that is constantly unfolding in our breeding area.

butterfly garden close upIn our gardens, the butterflies act just as they would in the wild. They fly from flower to flower drinking nectar, they land on our plates of overripe banana slices to drink the juices, stretch out on a leaf to bask in the sun, defend their territories from other butterflies, and they mate. Although butterflies do mate in our garden, the females will not lay their eggs unless they find the host plant their species needs as a caterpillar. We only have planted a few host plants in our gardens, so our female butterflies can lay their eggs, but making it easy for us to collect the eggs. The actual breeding happens in our special designed breeding area.

Enjoy the beautiful gardens planted with a wide variety of tropical vegetation and flowering plants. These provide the nectar for the butterflies. You can take your own camera (no obligated photo-shoots with us) and after the guided tour you are free to revisit the areas of your interest. Please sit back, relax and enjoy the peace and tranquility of being at one with this realm of nature.

In our Hummingbird Pavilion you can take your time to observe these creatures. We have created an area of tranquility and placed feeders to attract the hummingbirds. And they like the free meal... Watch them sucking up the nectar. And watch them moving from feeder to feeder at incredible speed. More info about the hummingbirds of Tanama can be read here.

This is a perfect excursion when you arrive in La Romana with one of the cruise ships.


... Monarch Butterfly Migration ... :

Credits: Disney Videos


The Info-center

Before you enter the garden you'll pass the Info-center. Here we explain and display the amazing life cycle of the butterflies. After this brief introduction we'll enter tropical garden. Our team spends many hours every day ensuring that the correct environment is maintained to ensure the optimum flying, feeding and breeding conditions for the butterflies.



The Tropical Garden

The tropical garden is designed to mimic the dry tropical forest that is typical for the eastern parts of the Dominican Republic. The butterflies feel at home here... The forest itself has different areas, from the cactus forest to the wet tropical vegetation. Included in the plant collection are dozens of bromeliads, orchids and other epiphytes, bright tropical blooms such as hibiscus, frangipani, pink chenille, Angels' Trumpets and others.



The Breeding Area

All our butterflies are raised on the ranch. Per species we have a larger breeding cage with host plants to secure the proper egg laying. Each breeding cage houses between 30 and 40 adult butterflies, they mate and each female lays around 80 - 300 eggs. On the daily bases the eggs are collected and transferred to the host plants in our 'nursery'. Butterfly eggs may be contaminated with disease particles when the female butterfly lays the egg, so we sterilize the eggs after collection.



The Caterpillar Nursery

Here you see plants with sleeves to protect the caterpillars against predators. The 'nursery' is outside to mimic the natural environment. The nursery is carefully located to mix shade and sunny conditions. Wind and rain are the best precautions against diseases...




The Hummingbird Pavilion

Someone who has never seen hummingbirds before, can be overwhelmed by the dazzling display and the speed of movement of these tiny birds. Hummingbirds are among the smallest of birds, and also the quickest – flapping their wings 12-80 times in just a second. Come and have a look....



The different species on display (move your mouse point over the images to show more):

The species on display can different based on the seasons.


Giant Swallowtails

We display several Swallowtails. The Giant Swallowtail is a large, very colorful butterfly. The male has the bright yellow colors, while the female is more brown.



More Swallowtails

The "Mariposa de bosque seca" (dry forest Butterfly) and the Machaonides Swallowtail are rare in our region, but we mostly have several variations of them.



Limon Butterfly

The "Mariposa del Muerte" (Butterfly of the death, limon butterfly) is an avid mud-puddler and visitor of flowers. It basks with its wings held wide open on tufts of grass, herbs and generally keeps within a metre above the ground, even on cloudy days.



Zebra Longwing

The Zebra Longwing (Heliconius Charitonia) is one of the stars in our garden. They come in a wide variety of colors, all in a striped pattern with one stripe ranging from black to light brown and the other from bright yellow to white. They can live for 8 weeks!!



Malachite

The Malachite (Siproeta Stelenes) is a beautiful butterfly with a green-yellow pattern. It feeds on rotten fruits and you can see it in our garden on the feeding trays. The wingspread is typically between 8.5 and 10 cm (3.3 and 3.9 in).



Gulf Fritillary

The Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis Vanillae) is a smaller butterfly but easy to spot due to its bright orange color. It does have long, rather narrow wings in comparison with other butterflies. The wingspan is 6–9.5 cm (2.4–3.7 in).



Monarch

The Monarch is the most wide spread butterfly in the world. We display the species Danaus Plexippus Megalippe, a non migrating Monarch. The Monarch -common in the USA- is famous for its southward migration and northward return in summer from Canada to Mexico and Baja California which spans the life of three to four generations of the butterfly.



Coming Soon:

White Peacock

The White Peacock (Anartia Jatrophae) is abundant in our region. The males of the species display a unique territorial behavior, in which they stake out a territory typically 15 meters in diameter. They aggressively protect it from other male white peacocks.



Red Rim

The Red Rim (Biblis Hyperia) is a beautiful, and due to its red band easy to spot butterfly, they are common in our region. They can be seen flying between March and November in tropical forest.



Pale Cracker

The Pale Cracker (Hamadryas amphichloe) is a grey - white butterfy that prefers the shade. They acquired their common name due to the unusual way that males produce a "cracking" sound as part of their territorial displays.



Photographs © Tonio Tosto

image life cycle butterfly

The life cycle of a butterfly explained:

The egg is a tiny, round, oval, or cylindrical object, usually with fine ribs and other microscopic structures. The female attaches the egg to leaves, stems, or other objects, usually on or near the intended caterpillar food.



The caterpillar (or larva) is the long, worm-like stage of the butterfly or moth. It often has an interesting pattern of stripes or patches, and it may have spine-like hairs. It is the feeding and growth stage. As it grows, it sheds its skin four or more times so as to enclose its rapidly growing body.



The chrysalis (or pupa) is the transformation stage within which the caterpillar tissues are broken down and the adult insect's structures are formed. The chrysalis of most species is brown or green and blends into the background. Many species overwinter in this stage.



The adult (or imago) is colorful butterfly or moth usually seen. It is the reproductive and mobile stage for the species. The adults undergo courtship, mating, and egg-laying. The adult butterfly or moth is also the stage that migrates or colonizes new habitats. The butterfly pictured here is a Blue Morph, which is large in size. The Morph's wingspan is 4 3/8 - 5 7/8 inches (15 - 17 cm).







From the tiniest blues to the largest swallowtails, colorful butterflies are nature's flying flowers. Everyone is familiar with butterflies, but how much do you really know about these insects? Here are 10 cool facts about butterflies.



1. Butterfly wings are transparent.

How can that be? We know butterflies as perhaps the most colorful, vibrant insects around! A butterfly wing is actually formed by layers of chitin, the protein that makes up an insect's exoskeleton. These layers are so thin you can see right through them. Thousands of tiny scales cover the transparent chitin, and these scales reflect light in different colors. As a butterfly ages, scales fall off the wings, leaving spots of transparency where the chitin layer is exposed.



2. Butterflies taste with their feet.

Taste receptors on a butterfly's feet help it find its host plant and locate food. A female butterfly lands on different plants, drumming the leaves with her feet to make the plant release its juices. Spines on the back of her legs have chemoreceptors that detect the right match of plant chemicals. When she identified the right plant, she lays her eggs. A butterfly will also step on its food, using organs that sense dissolved sugars to taste food sources like fermenting fruit.



3. Butterflies live on an all-liquid diet.

Speaking of butterflies eating, adult butterflies can only feed on liquids, usually nectar. Their mouthparts are modified to enable them to drink, but they can't chew solids. A proboscis, which functions as a drinking straw, stays curled up under the butterfly's chin until it finds a source of nectar or other liquid nutrition. It then unfurls the long, tubular structure and sips up a meal.



4. A butterfly must assemble its proboscis as soon as it emerges from the chrysalis.

A butterfly that can't drink nectar is doomed, so one of its first jobs as an adult butterfly is to make sure its mouthparts work. When a new adult emerges from the pupal case, or chrysalis, its mouth is in two pieces. Using palpi located adjacent to the proboscis, the butterfly begins working the two parts together to form a single, tubular proboscis. You may see a newly emerged butterfly curling and uncurling the proboscis over and over, testing it out.



5. Butterflies drink from mud puddles.

A butterfly cannot live on sugar alone; it needs minerals, too. To supplement its diet of nectar, a butterfly will occasionally sip from mud puddles, which are rich in minerals and salts. This behavior, called puddling, occurs more often in male butterflies, which incorporate the minerals into their sperm. These nutrients are then transferred to the female during mating, and help improve the viability of her eggs.



6. Butterflies can't fly if they're cold.

Butterflies need an ideal body temperature of about 29ºC / 85ºF to fly. Since they're cold-blooded animals, they can't regulate their own body temperatures. The surrounding air temperature has a big impact on their ability to function. If the air temperature falls below 13ºC / 55ºF, butterflies are rendered immobile, unable to flee from predators or feed. When air temperatures range between 28º-38ºC / 82º-100ºF, butterflies can fly with ease. Cooler days require a butterfly to warm up its flight muscles, either be shivering or basking in the sun. And even sun-loving butterflies can get overheated when temperatures soar above 38ºC / 100ºF, and may seek shade to cool down.



7. A newly emerged butterfly can't fly.

Inside the chrysalis, a developing butterfly waits to emerge with its wings collapsed around its body. When it finally breaks free of the pupal case, it greets the world with tiny, shriveled wings. The butterfly must immediately pump body fluid through its wing veins to expand them. Once its wings reach full-size, the butterfly must rest for a few hours to allow its body to dry and harden before it can take its first flight.



8. Butterflies live just 2-4 weeks, usually.

Once it emerges from its chrysalis as an adult, a butterfly has just a few short weeks to live. During that time, it focuses all its energy on two tasks – eating and mating. Some of the smallest butterflies, the blues, may only survive a few days. Butterflies that overwinter as adults, like monarchs and mourning cloaks, can live as long as 9 months.



9. Butterflies are nearsighted, but they can see and discriminate a lot of colors.

Within about 3-4 meter / 10-12 feet, butterfly eyesight is quite good. Anything beyond that distance gets a little blurry to a butterfly, though. Butterflies rely on their eyesight for vital tasks, like finding mates of the same species, and finding flowers on which to feed. In addition to seeing some of the colors we can see, butterflies can see a range of ultraviolet colors invisible to the human eye. The butterflies themselves may have ultraviolet markings on their wings to help them identify one another and locate potential mates. Flowers, too, display ultraviolet markings that act as traffic signals to incoming pollinators like butterflies – "pollinate me!"



10. Butterflies employ all kinds of tricks to keep from being eaten.

Butterflies rank pretty low on the food chain, with lots of hungry predators happy to make a meal of them. Some butterflies fold their wings to blend in to the background, using camouflage to render themselves all but invisible to predators. Others try the opposite strategy, wearing vibrant colors and patterns that boldly announce their presence. Bright colored insects often pack a toxic punch if eaten, so predators learn to avoid them. Some butterflies aren't toxic at all, but pattern themselves after other species known for their toxicity. By mimicking their foul-tasting cousins, they repel predators.



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