So a few days ago I finally made it over to the Butterfly Gardens of Stratford. Supposedly the biggest in the UK, it was actually quite small. I guess the draw for butterflies is greater in the Northeast states – the one I’ve been to in Maine was much much larger. Anyway, despite that, less than 5 minutes after I walked in, I already had a butterfly land on my hand. Of course it rapidly disappeared as I fumbled with my phone to get a picture. He really caught me off guard though I did get more used to the butterflies landing on me over the next few hours. I did nearly kill one when it landed on the back of my neck and startled me. Thankfully I was sitting down and expecting them to come over so I was able to restrain myself but it did feel quite odd. They are so beautiful and fragile that I would have felt terrible had I harmed him. It is a bit disconcerting to have to be so on edge – they make a habit of being very near and sometimes land on the ground so you have to watch your step and in front and beside you at all times.
There were also birds around – ones that had been specially selected because they are ground birds that never prey on butterflies. Apparently some birds will eat them and of course they can’t be flying around – any bird would be big enough to damage a butterfly if the bird knocked into it. Also specially selected are all the colorful flowers that make the entire place smell so nice, but not selected was the iguana that was donated to the conservatory.
There were also a few rooms for arachnids and insects including many things I did not take pictures of because they were really freaking. There was a handling session while I was there so I watched a couple brave kids hold a giant stick insect, a giant snail (biggest type in the world but apparently this one was little – check out the picture. Bigger than my hand and still a baby – and also pretty icky) and a giant millipede (not poisonous though a centipede is – interesting and pretty useless fact unless your household centipedes are growing exponentially larger than they should). I left before the big spider came out I don’t think I could have handled that, they were freaky. And the ball python was shedding its skin so couldn’t be handled (they are blind when shedding – couldn’t believe I remembered that – apparently some of that herpetology knowledge sank in at some point). I did take some pictures of stick insects and one giant scorpion – approx. 6” long.
Despite seeming to have numerous pictures of butterflies, this is just 155 pictures out of almost 400 I took within a span of 3 or so hours (I should also note I took about as many of the castle I visited today!, but more on that tomorrow) all of which will eventually make it up on facebook or some other online album – I’m looking into some different options.