The Butterflies in the Wisley Glasshouse play a crucial part in enticing visitors into the gardens, at an otherwise quiet time of year. Children and adults alike very much enjoy these vividly coloured butterflies, and I had the opportunity to interview Greg Ovenden, who plays a key role in looking after the butterflies.

All the butterflies make a long journey to get to the glasshouse. They are bred on a butterfly farm in Belize, and it is currently run by local villagers, and was opened in 1993. The butterflies live in enclosures, with space to fly around, feed and mate. The eggs are then removed, and taken to a hatching enclosure, where 15,000 caterpillars are looked after at any one time. Once the caterpillars are turned into pupae, they get transported all around the world, with between 1,200 and 2,000 pupae sent to Europe and USA every week. Wisley gardens receives 1,200 one week, and then 700 the next, on a constant cycle.

There are 40 different species of butterfly in the glasshouse, and approximately 7000 butterflies are released into the glasshouse during the event. Greg’s job at the glasshouse includes checking the butterflies three times a day and releasing the butterflies when they are ready to be freed.

“Most butterflies have a short life span, and in the glasshouse, we have been told that they should last two to four weeks, and then die of old age. The last release of the butterflies will take place in early February, so at the end of the event, the vast majority of them will be dead.”

Butterflies feed on a number of different foods, such as nectar from flowers. Moreover, food stations are located throughout the glasshouse tropical section, where there is rotted food which the butterflies can feast on. The fruits include bananas and pineapple.

Greg informed me that the overall aim of the butterflies in the glasshouse is to teach visitors more about these dynamic, tropical creatures and butterfly conservation. He also explained how he hoped that the butterflies in the glasshouse would make visitors more aware of the importance of butterflies, and support the work of the people involved in the Butterfly Conservation.

Butterflies are one of the most intriguing creatures on our planet, and with Global Warming meaning that UK butterflies are under the threat of extinction, such events play a key role in informing the British Public about these dangers.

By James Stonehouse, St George's College Weybridge