Gold Coast Butterfly House
Tucked away discreetly within the forested streets of Gaven lies the very unassuming Gold Coast Butterflies Hobby Farm. In fact, aside from a butterfly painted sweetly upon a small green gate and a glimpse of a greenhouse-like structure from above the tree-lined fence you would be forgiven if you drove straight past the first time. Despite outward appearances though, step through that door and you will enter a small world that is a delightful representation of a woman’s love and dedication to the protection and conservation of one of our most delicate and beautiful creatures, the butterfly.
The birth of the Gold Coast Butterflies Hobby Farm
Josephine Romeo’s love of gardening became a passion for butterflies many years ago. Her desire to build beautiful gardens that were alive with these delicate insects led to an interest in how to create the best environment in which they could thrive. With some dedicated research and the addition of some butterfly host plants brought in specifically for the caterpillars to eat, it wasn’t long before she was seeing the fruits of her labour. The butterflies were flourishing. Seeing this, teamed with the knowledge that the numbers of these vital pollinators were steadily decreasing due to the destruction of their natural habitat, Josephine decided to dedicate her time to not only their conservation but also to educate others on how they too could help protect and nurture our local butterfly population. It was here that the Gold Coast Butterflies Hobby Farm was born.
Gold Coast Butterflies
Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10am – 2pm Josephine opens her Butterfly House up to the public. At $8 per person or $25 for a family, it is a chance for people to experience these somewhat rare, and usually fleeting, creatures at a much closer range and in larger numbers. This also includes a visit to the Life-Cycle centre and a wealth of information on how these creatures live, what they need to survive and how you too can help.
The Life-Cycle Centre
In a room off to one side of the Butterfly House, you will find the Life-Cycle Centre. This is a small space but has been set up to effectively illustrate and explain to the public the different life stages of a butterfly, which are egg, larva, pupa and adult. By walking around the room you will be able to get up close and personal with each of these as they thrive within small netted enclosures. When we visited, a pupa was actually hanging from one of the small display tables and my daughter was able to grab a magnifying glass and study it – which she did, intently.
Along with Kirsti Whitlocke, her well-educated and animated assistant, Josephine is able to talk you through the life-cycle of a butterfly and what the purpose and needs are at each stage. My two eldest children, aged 8 and 6, found this part extremely interesting and asked a barrage of questions all of which were answered quickly and expertly. The children were amazed to see the caterpillars up close, to learn about the different species of butterfly as well as the changes they underwent throughout their life. When they spotted the type of butterflies we had in our own backyard they were intrigued to learn what plants we most probably had that were helping them to thrive.
In this room, you will also find pinned butterflies, some that are over 100 years old, as well as information on how you can create your own butterfly garden and help increase their dwindling numbers. In particular, Gold Coast Butterflies are working to increase the numbers of the endangered Richmond Birdwing butterfly and are keen to explain which plants you can add to your own garden if you also want to aid in their conservation.
The Walk-In Butterfly House
Although the kids’ curiosity and thirst for knowledge on all things butterflies peaked in the Life-Cycle room, the walk-in Butterfly House was by far the main attraction.
Before entering the greenhouse-like enclosure we were given a few rules regarding the butterflies. Surprisingly, there were not too many. We needed to enter the house in lots of two so that there was no chance of a butterfly escaping through the netting and we shouldn’t touch their wings. We were told that the butterflies would probably land on us naturally and that if not we could always hold on to a piece of fruit and no doubt they would come to enjoy the juices. Aside from that it was in we go!
I must admit, it was a little exciting even before we entered as you could see the shadows of multiple fluttering butterflies on the walls from the outside. Even so, when we stepped in it was to a small chorus of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahhs’ for although the space was only two small corridors that were rimmed and lined with dedicated host plants and flowers it was immediately clear that we were in the presence of dozens of butterflies.
As space was not too big it was quite easy to simply stand still or sit on a nearby bench and watch the butterflies up close. All three of my kids had butterflies land on them at some stage and were even able to get them to move from one to the other too. Small plates of watermelon (obviously a favourite) and kiwi fruit were laid out at each end and it was clear that the butterflies loved these. By simply holding out a piece of fruit it was easy to gain a fluttering friend within minutes and as they were quite comfortable with visitors it was also no problem to study the butterflies at a very close proximity for a great length of time – something you wouldn’t usually get to do if you saw one in the wild. In fact, my daughter seemed to befriend one in particular, even nicknamed him ‘Jasper’, as he kept flying back and landing on her throughout the visit.
As they walked around the room my children were able to spot the caterpillars munching on leaves and even several ones that housed eggs or newly born mini-caterpillars (a HUGE hit). Host plants were signed along the passage as well to further illustrate why the butterflies were thriving in that space.
We ended up spending about an hour and a half in the butterfly house. The kids did pop outside for a few minutes every so often as it can be quite warm inside the enclosure (just what the butterflies love) so make sure you take hats and some water. In the end though, once they had exhausted their time with their new winged friends we reluctantly let them be and left.
I think that between the life-cycle room and the butterfly house my children (and I) gained a whole new understanding and appreciation of butterflies and their conservation. Although only quite small it left quite an impact on the kids and the whole way home they regaled me with the information they had learnt and the experiences they had with the butterflies. The lessons continued once we got home too as they actively sort out the butterflies in our garden and searched for which plants were attracting them. We even found a chrysalis on one of our leaves! It certainly did make us think twice about these tiny creatures and made us realise how lucky we are to have our own butterfly garden at home too. As it seems this is a lot rarer now than it use to be I would say a visit to the Butterfly House is a great experience to share with your children. It doesn’t take too long either and can easily be done as a detour to a day down the coast.
How you can help
Josephine doesn’t just offer you the experience and education, she also desperately wants you to help. By building your own Butterfly Garden at home or at your school you are helping to promote an environment and habitat that enables these insects to exist and thrive.
Via her online shop you can purchase host plants and seeds as well as gardening and full educational life-cycle kits which you can either have posted out or can collect from the Butterfly House when you visit.
Butterfly Life-cycle School and Kindergarten Incursion Program
With their growing popularity along with their desire to educate far and wide, Gold Coast Butterflies have now developed an incursion program which allows them to bring the butterflies to you! A great way to learn about the Butterfly Life-Cycle, the team bring LIVE Butterflies, eggs, caterpillars and pupa to classrooms and explain the butterfly life cycle process as well as demonstrate how butterflies feed on nectar. The presentation is fun, educational and interactive.
Kids Parties, Festivals or Fairs
It’s not just schools though that benefit from their roving education. Do you have a school fete or local festival that would benefit from a butterfly education experience? Or perhaps a little girl or boy who has a butterfly-themed birthday party coming up? If its a yes to any of the above then you be glad to know that the team at GC Butterflies also offer a memorable Live Butterfly Experience. Their 3m x 3m pop up gazebo or elegant netted dome can travel anywhere and comes complete with live Monarch butterflies inside. Kids can observe and feed the butterflies with an experienced Presenter providing information and supervision. There are fantastic photo opportunities and the complete Life-cycle of the Butterfly will also be on display with caterpillars and amazing gold dotted, emerald chrysalis.
Gold Coast Butterflies – The Facts
Location: 61 Castle Hill Drive South, Gaven.
Phone: 0424 647 102
Email: [email protected]
Opening Hours: Thurs – Saturday from 10am to 2pm.
Tickets or products can be purchased via their website.