June 12, 2021

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Young biologist creates a butterfly farm for everyone to enjoy in Las Piedras

The stones. A young biologist from Las Piedras made the idea of ​​being able to share his passion for studying a group of animals a reality, creating a butterfly farm in a park in his community with the support of his family and neighbors, as well as countless others. people who flock there to enjoy this expanding little wonder.

In this green mesh house, people can enjoy the magic of dozens of butterflies of four different species fluttering around them, while Ian José Pérez explains everything related to the life of these colorful insects, from laying their eggs to that go through the stages of caterpillar, then pupa or chrysalis, until they become the graceful butterfly.

According to Ian, the idea of ​​the Harlequin Butterfly Farm was born from his experience as a volunteer in a butterfly farm at the María T. Delgado school in San Lorenzo, and the knowledge he has gained in his biology studies.

So, once he finished his high school, “I said to myself, what better way than to make a butterfly farm in my community, for the enjoyment of the community and everyone in general.”

It began as a personal project, with a proposal to get some funds, “because it is an expensive project”, and also had to present it to the municipality of Las Piedras, because the land where he was going to build the butterfly farm, in the Las Campiñas 1 urbanization It belongs to the municipality and not to the urbanization.

The Arlequín Butterfly Garden is located in the Las Campiñas 1 urbanization, in Las Piedras. (David Villafane / Staff)

He began developing the proposal, management plans and other documents for summer 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown that was ordered, he had to put it on hiatus for a while. However, “we continued with the proposals, the meetings, collecting signatures in the community, and guiding the community about what the project was and whether they agreed or not.”

“People, knowing that we were going to make a butterfly farm, which is something unique and therapeutic, literally, because people come to relax, because collecting the signatures, people got excited and signed, ‘How brutal, how good! We are going to do something new for urbanization. ‘ They were always supporting in every way ”, he commented.

Finally, last January, the construction began, little by little, “because there is no money to do everything in a hurry.” However, he began to sell a kit, “a cup with a caterpillar that is sold to the person, so that they learn and have the experience of seeing the complete process of the metamorphosis of the butterfly”, and thus was able to raise enough money to be able to complete the first phase of the butterfly farm.

Attendees have the opportunity to see the entire life cycle of butterflies.
Attendees have the opportunity to see the entire life cycle of butterflies. (David Villafane / Staff)

“There we began to receive people on weekends, Saturdays and Sundays, in a period from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm, by appointment, because due to COVID we cannot receive so many people singing”, added.

“When people arrive at the butterfly farm, we first explain a little about the metamorphosis process of butterflies; We are talking about very curious things about an endemic species of Puerto Rico, the Harlequin butterfly, or by its scientific name Atlantea tulita. That is why the butterfly farm is given that name, to create awareness that we have an endemic butterfly, such as the coquí and the (Puerto Rican) parrot ”, he commented on what the butterfly farm offers to the visitor.

He added that when he speaks of endemic species, he refers to one that is only found in a specific area, and nowhere else in the world. In the case of the Harlequin butterfly, it is only found in one area of ​​western Puerto Rico and is protected.

At this point, people can see the eggs of one species of butterfly through a microscope, as well as the detail of the scales on the wing of another, collected after its natural death. They can also observe caterpillars, and chrysalis of daytime butterflies, “which are the ones we usually see during the day”, and at night, “which are the ones we see at night, some are the big ones that we usually see stuck to the walls at night when we turn on the lights”.

Meanwhile, Ian explains the whole process of the metamorphosis of these Lepidoptera, which is the scientific name for the order where butterflies, both diurnal and nocturnal, are grouped.

“Finally, we talk a little about the most common butterflies in Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico, diurnal butterflies have hundreds of species. The nocturnal ones are many more, there is no specific number, more studies need to be done on that, “he explained, adding that lepidoptera are important organisms for the pollination of plants, and they are also recognized as bioindicators, that is, that” they depend a lot of their environment ”and are particularly vulnerable to environmental pollution.

“Creating a space like this helps us a lot to reestablish butterfly populations in urban areas, like the one we are in now, which is an urbanization. It is important to be able to repopulate all that area, well affected by so much cement and so much tar ”, commented Ian, taking the opportunity to make a call for more spaces with flowers and plants that allow the subsistence of animal species.

Then, already inside the butterfly farm, four species of butterflies await you: Puerto Rican monarch, zebra, lemon, and agraulis, which is “a tiny orange that hides and is more difficult to find.”

In a few minutes, we were able to observe a butterfly laying eggs on the plant that serves as its host, something that is not often seen, as well as a couple mating almost on our heads. In other words, between plants and flowers, you can see all the stages of the natural cycle of these butterflies, from when they lay their eggs until their life ends.

Ian stressed that fortunately the community has welcomed the butterfly farm so positively that everyone is making sure that no type of vandalism occurs.

“Here if something is needed for the butterfly farm, it is said and it appears”. In addition, it was built in such a way that if a storm is approaching, everything can be disassembled and the insects can be taken to a safe place while the natural phenomenon passes.

The next thing, Ian predicted, will be an expansion that will allow to have more species of butterflies and receive more visitors.

“We are going to expand the butterfly farm. We’re going to enlarge the flying area 10 feet more. And in the other ten feet we are going to do a laboratory. And what is seen outside the butterfly farm we will be able to see inside the laboratory, and many more interesting things, “he said, with evident optimism. “We are not done. We are going to continue”.

Just at the end of the interview, a couple arrived from San Juan with their little boy, and they were able to enjoy all of Ian’s explanations about lepidoptera, while the little one was curiously observing the eggs, caterpillars, chrysalis and butterflies.

Those interested in visiting the Harlequin Butterfly Farm, or helping its development, can contact Ian on the butterfly farm’s Facebook page, and there they can make an appointment for a visit, although the butterfly farm will stop receiving visits for a few weeks to make the expansion. You can also be contacted or texted at 787-206-1931.

The visits are free, since the project is a non-profit foundation, although they accept donations, and they also have the aforementioned kit for sale to be able to observe the metamorphosis of a butterfly.

“My message to everyone is, let’s conserve our ecosystems, let’s create gardens for pollinators that are extremely important. What is sought is that, in places full of cement and houses, that is not a natural environment, that we promote gardens with flowers, with host plants for butterflies, and create those environments that are super beautiful for us and super important for butterflies and other pollinators. . Give nature a chance ”, urged the creator of the Harlequin Butterfly Farm.

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