Butterfly House opens in Columbia

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COLUMBIA- Hundreds of people attended the first annual Butterfly Festival at Jefferson Farm and Garden this weekend.

The Butterfly Festival is to celebrate the opening of the second native butterfly house in Missouri at Jefferson Farm and Garden. The butterfly house began construction in October.

A butterfly house is similar to a greenhouse in structure but covered in insect netting with host and nectar plants on each side. The program director for Jefferson Farm and Garden, Amy Dooley, said these houses help provide the right conditions for caterpillars to grow and transform.

Nearly 500 people came by on Saturday to interact with approximately 200 butterflies that call the house their home.

“Anybody can come out and enjoy it and learn about what butterflies they might see in their backyard," Dooley said. "Also, what kind of host and nectar plants are really important for butterflies to survive."

Dooley explained that one of the main goals of Jefferson Farm and Garden is to educate people on the importance of pollinators and the butterfly house is one of many efforts to do just that.

They have four active bee hives and a two acre wildflower meadow that supports native pollinators, these are also very important to teach people about pollinators, Dooley said.

“Not many people realize that one out of every three bites of food we take are because of pollinators," Dooley said. "Food like apples and blueberries and strawberries and tomatoes those are all favorite food that are helped by pollinators."

People can help these pollinators by seeing what plants they have in the butterfly house and planting those nectar and host plants around their homes, Dooley said

This also helps to create a Monarch way station where Monarch butterflies can stop and rest during their migration, Dooley said.

Dooley says she has high hopes for future festivals.

“I do think that this will be a yearly event that just grows and grows every year," said Dooley. "We will continually add new activities and more vendors each weekend, so really this is our very first year to kick off this great pollinator celebration."

The house requires a lot of hard work from volunteers to keep it running and the Heart of Missouri Master Gardeners provides that.

Marie Pasley is a master gardener and she says her group of 40 volunteers has put a lot of hours in at Jefferson Farm and Garden.

Pasley says the butterfly house offers a unique benefit to the public.

“Butterfly house is a very good draw to get people to the farm and then there are a lot of things on the farm that farmers and agriculture in the state of Missouri grow, that's the idea that it's supposed to be an educational facility for what CAFNR has to offer," said Pasley.

Another way people can help, according to Pasley, is donations.

“Donations would be wonderful because most of this is supposed to be sustainable so we need lot of support from the community to keep this place going and growing,” said Pasley.

 The butterfly house will be open every weekend in July 2017.