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A visit to the Aruba Butterfly Farm

We were in Aruba a couple of weeks ago, and of course we visited the local Butterfly Farm. We stayed “in town” (Oranjestad), and the Butterfly Farm is out near the “High Rise Strip”, so we used the local bus system, which worked very well! Take the #10 bus (the one that goes to “Marriott” or “Hotels”). The Butterfly Farm isn’t exactly at an official stop (though it’s near one), but if you tell the driver you want to go there he’ll drop you right at the door. The fare is a very affordable $2.30 per person, and this includes a “transfer”, which in our case was a “round trip.” The driver collects the fare when you board, and you can pay in US dollars. And, unlike any bus we’ve been on before, the driver makes change, which slows down the boarding process, but removes the stress of always trying to carry exact change. The ride on the bus is quick and pleasant.

On to the Butterfly Farm! And here’s our assessment in a nutshell:

It’s terrific!

Welcome Sign

(As usual, click on any picture for a larger version. You can also see a photo gallery with a lot more pictures from the Aruba Butterfly Farm here.)

The interior is lushly tropical:

Inside View

Inside View

Our guide was Anderith — an unusual name, even for Aruba. She was great! When she realized we were already familiar with butterflies, she adapted her presentation. Actually, it wasn’t a presentation, it was a discussion, which we enjoyed a lot. She told us that they currently had 38 (we think) different species, five of which are ones that they’re breeding themselves. The only species they have that’s also native to Aruba is the Monarch. The rest are exotics, but Anderith told us they aren’t concerned about escapes because Aruba is a desert with such a limited variety of native plants that the chance of their finding hosts is very remote.

As much as we know about butterflies, we still learned some things from Anderith. For example, she told us that the Heliconias (Longwings) can digest pollen that they collect on their proboscises, and as a result they are the only butterflies that can actually “eat” — i.e., ingest protein. This allows them to live, free flying, for up to nine months — the longest of any butterflies.

Because they do some breeding at the Aruba Butterfly Farm, we were able to see some interesting eggs and caterpillars. This was exceptional, because most butterfly farms/gardens don’t do any of their own breeding, so all you can see are chrysalises and flying butterflies. At the Aruba farm, we saw Owl butterfly eggs (they’re big, and laid in rows), and caterpillars of the Owl and a couple of Asian Swallowtail species. The Owl caterpillars were especially interesting:

Owl Caterpillars

This is a newly emerged Owl butterfly:

Owl Butterfly

This is either a Scarlet or a Common Rose Swallowtail, munching down on a citrus leaf:

Scarlet or Common Rose Swallowtail Caterpillar

This stunning butterfly (we really recommend you click for the larger view) is an Emerald Swallowtail:

Emerald Swallowtail

This chrysalis, of the Indian Black Crow Butterfly, is so remarkable that you almost have to see it to believe it: Yes, it really looks like solid gold, with scarlet accents. Again, we recommend clicking for the larger view:

Indian Black Crow Chrysalis

Not to be outdone, the Dophla Evelina Leafwing chrysalis looks like it’s been tinged with molten silver:

Dophla Evelina Leafwing Chrysalis

Because the Aruba Butterfly Farm does some breeding, you’re more liable to catch some “butterfly action” there than at most other places. Here’s a Scarlet Swallowtail that we watched as she laid her eggs:

Scarlet Swallowtail Laying

…and these two butterflies were mating:

Butterflies Mating

The Indian Leafwing was fascinating; it’s underwings look exactly like a dried up ficus leaf. Greg actually mistook this for a leaf at first:

Indian Leafwing Underwings

The overwings of the Indian Leafwing could hardly be more different:

Indian Leafwing Overwings

And finally, we’ll leave you with this beautiful inhabitant of the Aruba Butterfly Farm:


As we mentioned already, you can see a photo gallery with a lot more pictures from the Aruba Butterfly Farm by clicking on the link under “Photo Galleries” in the right sidebar, or by clicking here.

To give you an idea how fascinating the Aruba Butterfly Farm is, listen to this story: On our second visit, we were on a schedule. We had to make it back to town by a certain time, so as we arrived we noted that we had an hour until we had to leave. Since it was a repeat visit, we wondered what we would do to pass an entire hour. Then we blinked and the hour was gone! Just like that.

We strongly recommend a visit to the Aruba Butterfly Farm if you’re on the island. If you’re on a cruise ship, you’ll have to go on the day you’re there, but if you’re there for a week (or more), you should know that the Farm gets chrysalises in on Wednesday morning, and pins them up during the day on Wednesday. Since many butterflies emerge first thing in the morning, the best time to arrive is as soon as they open (or even a little early — they’ll be there) on Thursday.

Thank you Anderith for your great company, and for providing the information and identifications for this post. If there any mistakes, don’t blame Anderith or Judi — Greg was in charge of taking notes. :) And if you’re there and run into Anderith, tell her you read about her here.

Finally (to bring us back to where we started, which is taking the bus), if you’re staying in Oranjestad and taking the bus back to town, you just cross the road (be careful — they drive fast) and walk a few feet down to the bus stop (the sign says “Bushalte”). You can use your transfer from your trip out to pay for your trip back. Enjoy the ride, and your memories of the wonderful Aruba Butterfly Farm!

P.S. If you’re staying in a hotel or resort on the “High Rise Strip” (where all the beaches are), and don’t have a car, and want to take the bus, it’s just as easy: You still take the #10 bus, which is hard to get wrong because it’s the only one that runs along that route, but for most of the hotels and resorts you’ll get on it in the direction running towards Oranjestad to go to the Farm, and away from Oranjestad to get back to your resort. (After you leave the Farm, you stay on the same side of the road and walk maybe sixty feet up to the Bushalte that goes in that direction.)

It’s really very simple: As you board the bus, just tell the driver you’re going to the Butterfly Farm (or your resort, if you’re leaving). He’ll tell you if you’re going in the wrong direction, and will drop you right where you need to be if you aren’t. The buses are great!

— posted by Judi and Greg · · #

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Excellent story about the Aruba Butterfly Farm! All the photos, were very, very, beautiful!!! I loved every photo, and I loved the story!!! Daniel

— Daniel · 11 July 2011, 10:54 · #

My family moved to Aruba in 1971 when I graduated High School. Visited 3X and adore this little island! Can’t wait to add this butterfly garden on my next excursion. Thanks for all your wonderful and very thorough information.

Cindy Aviles · 8 September 2012, 22:19 · #

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