Week #9 – Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

I bet you didn’t know…that I’m a science geek.

In high school, I earned student of the year in both Biology (my fave!) and Chemistry, and considered majoring in Pre-Med in college. (Note to aspiring scientists and doctors, don’t let peer pressure keep you down.)

Although I majored in Journalism and minored in Spanish (hola, amigos!), I never really lost my inner nerd. That was very apparent this weekend at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park.

My friend Lindsey, who I went to Bub City with earlier this year, met me for a little Green City Market indoor shopping (I bought goat cheese and hot apple cider, Lindsey bought fresh golden honey) and a tour of the museum. We started out on the second floor because we were excited to make our own terrariums (when in Rome…), but they were just cleaning up when we arrived. Next time!

We wandered around to learn about the prairie, saw a lot of taxidermy, looked at rotten food, discovered how the city’s electricity works, and found out a lot about germs. I also have a mild case of germophobia, so I’m not sure if learning that bleach is bad is a good thing or a bad thing.

From there, we moved on to the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven. When you walk into the Haven, it’s balmy, wet, and warm. You’re not sure what to expect. Then you see butterflies. Lots of them! That’s because there are about 1,000 butterflies in the Haven, and new ones are added every day at 2 p.m. when they release the newest members of the Haven.

As the butterflies flew around us, Lindsey and I went completely nuts. I wasn’t sure if I should be scared or what. Some screaming may have happened. Laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe…that definitely happened too. I think we amused a nice gentleman with a rather large camera because I swear he was taking pictures of us, but we didn’t care. This was the definition of pure joy in action.

The Haven is really pretty. There’s a waterfall, a koi pond, and lots of flowers,trees, and birds. The museum has a yoga class in the Haven…can you imagine? Once we got used to being in the Haven, we were on the hunt to take photos of all of the butterflies in the Haven. The museum has a helpful photo guide to show you all of the species that live there. We staked out the butterfly food stations of orange and rotten bananas, but liked our photos of colorful butterflies on the leaves best. (We really wanted one to land on us, too, but that didn’t happen.) See what I found in my photos below!

We had a little time to kill before the butterfly release, so we checked ourselves for hitchhikers, aka butterflies, and went into a room where all the butterflies emerge from their chrysalides. A chrysalis is the equivalent to a moth’s cocoon, and each butterfly species has a unique chrysalis—some are bright yellow with metallic accents, while others are brown and would be difficult to see when hiding in a tree. The museum receives shipments of chrysalides from around the world, and, unfortunately, only about 70 percent of the shipments make it to fly in the Haven. Also, did you know that a “butterfly’s” lifespan is one year, but it’s only an adult butterfly for two weeks? What a shame.

During our time watching the chrysalides, we were able to see two emerge, which was, on a small level, like witnessing a birth. When the butterfly emerges, its wings are crinkled, and it takes a little time for the wings to dry out and allow the butterfly to fly. (Sorry if I’m boring you!) We also saw one little guy who just couldn’t get his wings to open up and he was put in the freezer. Rest in peace, little guy.

At 2 p.m. we witnessed a short presentation about the butterflies, and then watched the new ones take flight. It was so pretty to watch. I was glad to see it!

From there, we wandered around the first floor, which included a lot of frogs, snakes, and bugs (eek!). The water beetle was particularly interesting (and ugly) because it holds it’s gray eggs on its back until they hatch (I decided to spare you the disgusting image.) I did, however, post a photo of a turtle in honor of my tiny niece Julia, who we affectionately call “Turtle.” She’s pretty darn cute.

What I learned from the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is that you’re never too old to learn; butterflies are not scary, but peaceful; and I still really love science. I guess some things never change…(special thanks to Linds for going into full geek mode with me!)

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
2430 N. Cannon Drive
Lincoln Park

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