281 Greenfield Rd
South Deerfield, MA

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The day I wore my magic wings

by Jason Butynski

When I first heard that I was being sent to report on a “butterfly conservatory,” I said what most guys like myself would say in a similar situation: “Damn!” I am a guy who likes sitting around in his boxers and white T-shirt, drinking beers and watching football. I don't do butterflies.

My roommates summed up my feelings, “Are you going to wear a dress to the butterfly place?”

I eventually gathered my strength (which did not include any whiskey) and my girlfriend, Ashley, and went to the Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory, in South Deerfield. Three hours later, although I would never tell my roommates for fear of the ensuing harassment and beatings, I was looking for an excuse to go back.

The garden, named the Francis R. Redmond Conservatory, for the owner of the Candlelight Restaurant which was previously located on the site, was opened in October of 2000 and was recently doubled in size from 4,000 to 8,000 square feet. As you step through the door into the conservatory you are immediately smacked in the face with hot, humid air. Tall trees and massive bushes engulf the walking path and make you think you have entered a rainforest.

And there are butterflies everywhere. Over 3,000 native and tropical butterflies inhabit the conservatory. The Piano Key, the Blue and Gray Cracker, Zebra Longwing, and numerous types of Swallowtails, are only a few of the 50 varieties of butterflies found flying around the garden.

Both Ashley and I had to duck some of the larger ones. Some were bigger than my head, and I have a pretty large dome-piece. It was like bats flying around only more colorful. Luckily there were only a few big ones and they were pretty much in one place.

We were both hoping a normal-sized butterfly would land on us, and fortunately for me one landed on my head. The butterfly, coincidentally called a Tailed Jay, stayed on my head for about 5 minutes before it flew away. When it did I wept like a little girl.

I overheard the flight attendants, which is what the conservatory's staff are called, explain that butterflies don't always land on everybody, which made my experience that much sweeter. One way to attract butterflies to yourself is by wearing bright colors; you shouldn't overdress though, since it stays a constant 80 degrees inside, which feels more like 180.

Adding color to the already vibrant room is a waterfall and heart-shaped pond filled with Japanese carp, known as Koi. These large orange fish can be viewed as you cross a small bridge in the middle of the garden. Beautiful Butterfly Bushes and purple Echinacea are just a few of the many flowers that make this one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen.

One thing I could have done without is the baby quails, which are allowed to roam freely throughout the garden. I found these brand-new additions to be quite annoying because I always had to watch where I was stepping. The last thing I wanted to do was squish a freakin' quail.

I actually learned a lot about butterflies while I was there. A map on one of the walls shows where all the butterflies are from, and to my surprise, none are from Africa. The majority of butterflies in the exhibit are from South America. There is also a cocoon hatchery where people can watch butterflies emerge from their cocoons. There is a giant box that has hundreds of cocoons in it. Here I saw some butterflies work their way out of their cocoons, which is something I don't think I would ever see in the wild. From here they are released into the exhibit.

I exited through a gift shop, which wasn't too expensive. I even bought the book called, “The Hungry Little Caterpillar.” A garden shop has many of the plants that attract butterflies for sale.

There is also a little snack shop. Another garden is located outside in the summer months. It is full of native plants that attract butterflies, but I felt that once I had seen the conservatory, the last thing I needed was to go sit in an outside garden.

Aside from the conservatory, there are plenty of other activities at Magic Wings. A foyer in the middle of the garden hosts weddings and children's birthday parties. One of the other great things about Magic Wings is that they encourage photographers. They will even set up specific times after closing for photographers to come in alone. Of course, like a moron, I forgot my camera at home.

My trip to see butterflies wasn't so bad after all. I went in dreading the thought of spending an afternoon with butterfly-lovers and ended up enjoying a quiet walk around the conservatory. I even got that excuse I was looking for: Ashley and I are taking her little sister to visit soon.

Although I will always love watching sports and drinking beers, after getting in touch with my feminine side for an afternoon, I may mix in a soap opera and glass of wine.



This website was created by the students of Journalism 375 at the University of Massachusetts 2005