Summertime in Idaho means a lot of things to me, one of which is BUTTERFLIES! These lovely creatures are not only beautiful, but they also do some very important work: they are pollinators just like bees. Like bees, they collect pollen on their legs as they drink nectar using their proboscis (nice word for Scrabble or crossword puzzles!). As they move from one location to another, so moves the pollen which allows plants to reproduce.
Many kids learn about the life cycle of a butterfly in elementary school which is, of course, a great place to begin. Many young readers and pre-readers have also been introduced to butterflies through such books as The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and Ten Little Caterpillars by Bill Martin Jr. (Both of these books can be checked out at the Blackfoot Public Library!)
Why stop there though? Why not…experience and develop a deeper appreciation of butterflies, learn about their habitat and identify ways you can protect them and help them thrive? Pingree is home to a little treasure called The Butterfly Haven, owned and operated by the Reed family, where you can do all of the above!
Randy Reed, once a commercial beekeeper, and his wife Karen are the former owners of Liberty Tomato Company which they ran at this same location. The Liberty Tomato Company grew and distributed hothouse tomatoes and organically grown herbs to grocery stores throughout the pacific northwest from 1987-2018. After closing that business they embarked on their dream business, The Butterfly Haven. Although Randy no longer raises bees commercially, he continues to keep them as they are perfect companions for the butterflies. Randy and Karen own and operate this business (with no outside funding) alongside their daughters Susannah Newsome and Sarah Lott; they are passionate about preserving the environment and sharing their knowledge about all the critters they raise.
At The Butterfly Haven, you will encounter a beautiful butterfly habitat including twenty-eight host & nectar plants, twenty different butterfly species and six different bird species! There are approximately 1,500 flying butterflies onsite for your viewing pleasure. All these elements come together to create a relaxing, educational opportunity for young and old alike. Nature photographers will love all the photo possibilities. In a separate greenhouse, Randy can be found growing host and nectar plants and rearing caterpillars. Karen tells me Randy has been growing butterflies since he was three-four years old- WOW!
Inside the gift shop there are all kinds of goodies including t-shirts, guidebooks, sticker books, coloring books and jewelry. If you are looking for a unique birthday party location- look no further. The Butterfly Haven offers three different packages to help you create special birthday memories. Karen also enjoys speaking to school children and other groups eager to learn more about butterflies.
Karen and I talked at length about the dwindling numbers of butterflies, not only in Idaho, but also nationwide. Pesticides and loss of habitat have contributed to the falling numbers of butterflies as well as bees. Without butterflies and bees, pollination cannot occur naturally which negatively impacts food production. Karen stated that an important way to help butterflies and bees is to increase available habitat, but she cautions those wanting to grow butterfly and bee attracting plants, saying, “Be sure to choose plants that are able to grow in our climate.” It can be tempting to buy seeds or plants that you are drawn to without knowing if they can survive in southeastern Idaho, I know.
Karen is enthusiastic about the The Butterfly Haven’s growth in recent years. In 2019, visitors came from nine different countries and forty different states. This year, despite Covid-19 related travel fears, visitors have come from two different countries and thirty different states (and there is still plenty of time for summer visitors). When YOU visit, please share your pictures with us! Operating hours, admission prices and contact information can be found here.
Exciting newsflash…the Blackfoot Public Library has created a butterfly display and for every book you read (tagged at check-out) you will be given a ticket for your name to be entered into a drawing for a super fun butterfly prize package. Ashley and Paige, two of the Blackfoot Public Library’s amazing book ladies, have gathered all the books about butterflies for your reading enjoyment. You can begin checking out, reading and entering your name for the drawing beginning Wednesday, July 15, 2020 until Monday, August 31, 2020 at 5:00 pm. The winner will then be contacted by phone. We can’t wait to get a picture of the lucky winner with the butterfly prize package. Good luck!