In the past 11 years, it has been used to rear monarch caterpillars each summer, from eggs to caterpillars to chrysalis to adult butterfly. Then each butterfly is tagged and released into the wild. Youth and adults are able to see the monarch life cycle up close, aiding in fostering an appreciation for these precious creatures.
In 2015, the butterfly house was renovated and exhibits were added on butterflies, native bees and planting natives for pollinators. With the addition of pollinator gardens as well, the entire area was renamed Pollinator Paradise and has spurred the desire for the Pollinator Paradise addition to the nature center.
The Pollinator Paradise addition is currently in the fundraising phase of the $1.7 million project. The project broke ground in the summer of 2017, and then Phase 2 will be the addition of children’s museum-quality exhibits. Phase 3 of the project is to create a $500,000 endowment, included in the $1.7 million total figure, that will help the conservation board update and maintain the building and exhibits in years to come.
The Pollinator Paradise addition will be on the north side of the current Dickinson County Nature Center, with access from the main building.
Exhibits in the new addition are anticipated to include:
- Life-size honeycomb: Children will be able to crawl through life-size honeycomb, just like they are honeybees.
- Greenhouse: Native prairie plants that act as habitat and food sources for pollinator will be grown in an indoor greenhouse and sold to the public for minimal cost to help people start their own pollinator gardens at home.
- Pollen gathering: Visitors will be able to put on a pair of specially-made pants that allow “pollen” to stick to their legs, just like bees’ legs. They can then walk from flower to flower indoors and let the balls of pollen in the stamen stick to their plants. Then they will bring their pollen collections back to the hive.
- Monarch rearing enclosure: During the summer months, monarch eggs and caterpillars will be collected and brought into a glass-enclosed area in the middle of Pollinator Paradise and will be reared into adults so people can see the monarch life cycle up close.