Re-capture a fleeting moment in Stratford Butterfly Farm

Stratford butterfly farm

The fleeting company of a butterfly is something many people enjoy as the beautiful creatures make a show in many-a-back-garden during the summer months.

This temporary pleasure is arguably one many spend little time thinking about, only appreciating the moment as it comes then soon forgetting about it. In such case, it is not surprising that many people fail to register the glorious butterfly farms that are accessible both home and abroad as a place of interest during their travels. These people would then also fail to encounter the wealth of enchanting species that are housed in the reserves, where displayed are the full gamut of caterpillars, pupae and adult butterflies one could hope to imagine.

To rekindle the nostalgic childhood memory of watching for insects or to take a moment to appreciate the wonder of nature, a trip to said butterfly farms is a decidedly enriching experience.

The Stratford butterfly farm is a prime example of one of these reserves and perhaps one of the best in the UK – also a twice-recipient of the ‘trip advisor’ ‘Certificate of Excellence’ award. The Stratford butterfly farm began its life-cycle in 1985, opened by a man named David Bellamy. In mid- 2002, almost 20 years after its opening, disaster struck the farm when a rogue firework from a jubilee firework display caused a fire in a ‘rare and exotic’ butterfly nursery. It was believed that the firework landed in an empty plastic flower pot next to the greenhouse, acting as a vessel for the infernal blaze and facilitating the spreading of the flames to the highly flammable plant-life adjacent. Although the majority of the exotic butterflies in the greenhouse were saved, many of the plants that were particular to the breeding of such butterflies were destroyed. Despite being a trauma, the Stratford butterfly farm donned a chrysalis and emerged all the better afterwards.

The Stratford butterfly farm continues to host a simulated tropical environment within several large greenhouses, where many free flying butterflies roam in what is aptly called the ‘flight area’. Furthermore, there are the self-explanatory sections such as the ‘Caterpillar room’, ‘Arachnoland’ and ‘Insect City’ which make up the bounty of entomological displays.

Feeding butterfly

A truly immeasurable and ethereal delight can be found as a spectacle of colourful butterflies dance around you in the flight area. The area in fact has over 250 different species of butterfly, originating from 20 different countries with roughly 1500 critters taking flight at any one time. These butterflies include both those bred at home and those imported from the tropics, wherein they would come from a Conservation project that usual provides the main source of income for the local villages. This of course protects the butterflies but also does so for the community they come from – as butterfly breeding is a way in which the village can earn a living without causing any damage to the fragile tropical environment around them.

The flight area is the nearest thing to an exotic haven you’ll find in Stratford, cascading waterfalls, fish-filled pools, an artificial climate and rare plants ensure a stroll through the area is more akin to a real life tropical rainforest than the actuality of a British greenhouse.

chinese painted quail

The flight area wouldn’t be called a flight area if it didn’t include nature’s aviators, birds. There is in fact a healthy selection of species in the greenhouses, all of which have been chosen because of their decided lack of insects in the diet – this just means the area feels authentic and has a greater wealth of wild-life on show. Some of the more flamboyant of the species’ include the Australian cockatrice and Chinese painted quail.

Stratford caterpillar room

The caterpillar room is where you can engage with the primary stages of the butterfly life cycles and so both caterpillars and pupae are resident there, all viewable in a large walk-through greenhouse.

The sight of many wriggling species of caterpillars in a strangely cute one, as despite their huge differences in appearance, they ubiquitously share an air of infant naiveté that is undoubtedly a result of the anthropomorphization, we as a society, love to do.

A personal favourite of the species of caterpillar is the owl butterfly caterpillar, a chubby little critter with intimidating hairs all over its body that are deceptively similar to spikes.

Perhaps less adorable, but equally intriguing is the pupae form that the caterpillars inevitably take later in their life cycle. These are housed in the room’s ‘emerging cage’, named so as it exhibits the moment in which the newly formed butterflies break out of their chrysalis and prepare their wings for their maiden voyage. The Stratford butterfly farm really excels here, ensuring the full breadth of the breath-taking biography of the butterfly is on show.

Stratford insect city

Amazingly for a self-proclaimed butterfly farm, there are a grand variety of exotic and unusual insects available to be seen in what’s fittingly called the ‘insect city’ – not to worry however as the creepier of the crawlies are kept behind glass. A highlight is the beetle area, which too features the complete stages of the creature’s life cycle – including larvae and adult beetles. This is particularly rewarding as this stage of the beetle’s life is usually reserved to the underground or inside the bark of trees. Furthermore, there is the extensive collection of grasshoppers which include the more brightly coloured, the highly poisonous and the unusual smelling of the species.

With the further draws of a professional wildlife photography exhibition, an ‘arachnoland’ and the impressively equipped gift shop, the Stratford butterfly haven doesn’t fall short in terms of things to keep you, or your family occupied. Stratford butterfly farm is simply a pocket of paradise, the tropical microcosm on show makes the stresses of the wider world seem insignificant (even if it’s only temporarily) when compared to the intricate workings of the natural world.

To have a swarm of gentle and beautiful butterflies fly around you is a humbling and heart-warming experience, not to mention the trip as a whole is certain to entertain your children in an enriching and interesting manner.

Stratford pink butterfly