Adventures with butterflies at the Metolius Preserve

Aug 26, 2014
Bunny Thompson and her granddaughters master the swoop and twist method and learn the difference between moths and butterflies at a Kids' Butterfly Walk.

By Bunny Thompson

My granddaughters, ages 2- and 4-years-old, were visiting from Texas. I was looking for a fun outing for them, something that’s not readily available in Austin, Texas in the heat of August. There it was: Deschutes Land Trust had a Kids Butterfly Hike at the Metolius Preserve led by my friend, Sue Anderson. Bingo, I had scored. Not only would my granddaughters get to learn from an expert, they could burn off some of that boundless energy in a spot I think is one of the most magical places on earth, the Metolius Basin. As an added benefit, I could also learn something about butterflies, an insect I find fascinating, beautiful, intricate, delicate-and yet-I know absolutely nothing about them.

Armed with hats, sunscreen, snacks and water bottles, we met Sue and her helper, Marilyn Bertran, at the Metolius Preserve. Our noble leaders were adequately prepared with brightly colored, kid-sized backpacks made from recycled plastic by Sara Bella Upcycled. First lesson, even your backpack can be an environmental inspiration to help protect this great place. The girls were thrilled with their “very own” (at least for the hike) backpack filled with treasures: a magnifying glass, a thermometer/compass to wear on a string around your neck, pens, crayons, and best of all, a bug box! Next came the awe-inspiring, absolutely delightful, totally exciting butterfly net. Now that the energy level had reached a crescendo, we really needed to get onto “the hunt”. Sue explained how to carefully catch a butterfly and, with deft agility, demonstrated the art of using a butterfly net.

“I didn’t know that’s how you swooped and twisted a butterfly net to capture something,” I said, delighted that I had already learned something and we hadn’t even started our hike.

The older kids seemed to jump right into the ‘swoop and twist’ method capturing several butterflies right away. I ducked for cover as my young little explorers wielded their nets like swords until I could get control of the situation. As soon as the older kids returned with their netted treasures, we all watched Sue demonstrate how to retrieve a butterfly safely from the net without injuring them. We gathered to look closely at its wings, legs, colors and patterns. Even though they were much younger than the rest, my girls gathered around pleading for Sue to hold the butterfly at their level so they could see it, too. They were mesmerized and actually still for at least 45 seconds.

“Do you know how to tell the difference between a moth and a butterfly?” Sue asked the group. I, of course, certainly did not and was anxious to learn another tidbit about these beautiful creatures. “A butterfly has a little bulb on the end of their antennae and a moth does not,” Sue explained. Whoa—I had no idea. I’m still studying the little creature’s antennae when I realize my wee-ones are bounding ahead on the trail looking for more butterflies.

Sue and Marilyn identified many of the local butterflies, moths and other insects that day before we had to leave early for naptime and lunch. My girls are a bit young to remember all of the facts, but it did make an impression on their young brains and they remembered seeing butterflies that day. Throughout their remaining visit, their eyes would dart about as they scampered along a trail or played in our backyard and they would suddenly scream, “a butterfly!”