"Go!" an excited toddler yelled at a butterfly Friday, as it emerged, then flew away, from a wax-paper envelope his mother held open.
That sums up the feeling Friday afternoon at the Butterfly House at Peck Farm Park in Geneva, which opened for its 10th season with a release party.
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Slowly but surely, people released 400 butterflies into the house. Some needed coaxing, by holding the envelope right next to a flower. The butterflies may have been a little drowsy, after being refrigerated on their trip from a butterfly farm in Florida. Butterflies are coldblooded, so they prefer temperatures of at least 70 degrees, said Trish Burns, manager of the Peck Farm Park Interpretive Center.
"He landed on your finger!" an envious David Luhmann of Cary exclaimed, as a monarch perched on the hand of his mother, Jennifer.
"Isn't he cute? It just happened!" a surprised Jennifer said.
Seven types of butterflies were released, including the striking yellow-and-black striped zebra longwings. They perched on the walls, flowers, and a man's hat.
Volunteers explained the lives of butterflies, as did signs throughout the house. The house starts the season with adult-stage butterflies, and will receive a weekly shipment of 100 pupa.
It has a new pupa hatching cage, courtesy of a Boy Scout's Eagle project. It is slightly lower than the old one, so small children can see the pupa hanging, ready to emerge from their cocoons.
There are flowers in the house, for the adults to feed on, and bushes where they like to rest at night. There are also fuchsia bath poufs hanging from the walls and a tree. "They think butterflies are attracted to the color," said volunteer Chuck Mies. They are also attracted to the Gatorade in which the poufs are soaked.
Burns said the house gets about 18,000 visits a season. She expected as many as 300 people at the party Friday.
Why the park has the house has nothing especially to do with the ecology of the area, with its prairies and wetlands. It was installed "To get people to come to visit Peck Farm Park. It was a challenge to get visitors" when the park first opened, Burns said, and there are just a handful of butterfly houses in Chicago and the suburbs.
The Butterfly House is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays through the third week of September. It closes during rain and severe weather.
The district requests a donation of $2 per person or $5 per family to visit the house.