On Sunday 23 January 2011, it was very cold. -10 degrees Celsius with an Arctic wind coming from the mountains which they call here the Bise. It was the perfect weather to pay a visit to the Papiliorama not far away from where we live.

Papiliorama also called Swiss Tropical Gardens, is the largest butterfly garden in Switzerland.

In a glass dome, 40 meters in diameter and a maximum height of 14 meters, butterflies and moths can be observed in a jungle-like environment with 60 different species.

Papiliorama is also home to a hummingbird population which has been regularly provided offspring.

The garden also harbours a large variety of plants and flowers providing food and breeding grounds for the butterflies. We saw one butterfly actually laying an egg on one of the plants.

Butterfly eggs are protected by a hard-ridged outer layer of shell, called the chorion. This is lined with a thin coating of wax which prevents the egg from drying out before the larva has had time to fully develop. Each egg contains a number of tiny funnel-shaped openings at one end, called micropyles; the purpose of these holes is to allow sperm to enter and fertilize the egg. Butterfly and moth eggs vary greatly in size between species, but they are all either spherical or ovate.

Butterfly eggs are fixed to a leaf with a special glue which hardens rapidly. As it hardens it contracts, deforming the shape of the egg. This glue is easily seen surrounding the base of every egg forming a meniscus. The nature of the glue is unknown and is a suitable subject for research.

Eggs are usually laid on plants. Each species of butterfly has its own hostplant range and while some species of butterfly are restricted to just one species of plant, others use a range of plant species, often including members of a common family.

The eggs are collected and once they start to metamorphose they are moved into a special cabinet where they complete their final stage to become a butterfly. The extraordinary transformation from caterpillar to butterfly always fascinates me

The path through the garden leads you to different levels and areas with vegetation specific to one species, and are marked information signs explaining their habitat.

At the entrance of the garden there’s also an area where arthropods are exhibited.

The kids got really hot so we went to the Nocturama.

In the adjacent Nocturama (French: nocturne = night) you will find the nocturnal animals such as bats, sloth bears and anteaters. The day and night cycle is shifted by the artificial lighting by about twelve hours to allow the observation of the animals during their waking state.

Its pretty dark inside so we needed a couple of minutes to let our eyes adapt to the lightning and started our tour you need to move slowly as otherwise you wont see a lot of animals as most nocturnal animals are also slow movers.

Except for the bats for which an artificial bat cave was made and while walking through the cave bats are flying around you which was great fun for the kids.

Time to visit the latest addition to the gardens, The jungle trek which was opened in March 2007. This exhibition allows you to see the biodiversity of tropical forests with all its animals and plants. We went up the jungle bridge and from there you could observe the animals who are living in the tropical forests.

There is also an outside animal petting area and a Swiss butterfly garden which is only open in spring and summertime. Everybody had a great time and it was time to go back into the cold winter weather heading home but for some reason it didn’t feel as cold as when we arrived.

The difference between male and female butterfly Papiliorama Kerzers January 2011

Robvlees