Field Trip: Penang Butterfly Farm
I’m glad we made ourselves get out of our hotel room at 4pm to make the drive down to Teluk Bahang. We’d just checked in to our rooms after a rather sleepy and long car journey out from Taiping, and it was truly tempting to just sprawl on the bed and veg out.
Finding out that the Butterfly Farm closed at 6pm, we thought the timing was just about right, as we could leave directly from there to go for a hawker fare dinner on the beach afterward. 😛
It was a magical experience. DH and DD held butterflies on their palms for the first time. This is a New Lacewing on DD’s hand.
I have to admit I was too chicken to try. Still am, haha.
Penang tourist attractions maintain a differentiated pricing structure, tourists pay a higher price whereas MYKAD and MYKID holders (Malaysian citizens) pay a subsidised price. So Malaysian citizens, do not forget to bring your MYKAD as there is a MYR 9 difference which can buy you a plate of char kuey teow, a bowl of curry mee and cendol for dessert with some change left over!
We arrived just in time to join a free nature guided tour which turned out to be an immensely educational experience. I wished I had brought a notebook but it was probably not possible to take any notes with DS clinging onto me, so I tried my best to remember snippets from the commentary. Tough…
The Penang Butterfly Farm was established in the 1980s, it is a live butterfly and insect sanctuary. Behind the scenes of the public exhibition, is a research and development facility dedicated to breeding, conservation and nature awareness of butterflies and insects, with particular focus on the conservation of the endangered Yellow Birdwing (Troides Helena).
On our tour, we were shown the four stages of a butterfly life cycle, from egg
to larva (this is a New Lacewing caterpillar)
to pupa (chrysalis)
and imago (adult butterfly, I forgot to ask which species this is).
Butterflies come from the order of Lepidoptera, which means “scaly wings” in Greek. Enlarged on a microscope, these are the scales on the wings of a butterfly, it is like what our human skin is to us.
This is the image of the scales under a microscope.
Image Credits: Penang Butterfly Farm
These scales can detach from the wings easily upon touching them, so we were told to not catch or hold a butterfly by its wings as the powdery substance left on our fingers are actually the scales fallen off, which can negatively impact the butterfly’s ability to fly.
Our guide also showed us an example of mating butterflies in the garden. The male attaches itself to the female and the two may remain coupled between an hour to overnight, depending on the species.
When a mating couple flies, it is usually the female who bears the weight of the two, and does most of the work in the flying. Hmm, lazy males!
The farm also houses insects in both its greenhouse as well as an indoor education centre. Outdoors, we were shown a Mexican Redknee Tarantula
and a black scorpion.
And some 30 cm long millipedes that the Nature Specialist explained were really harmless and misunderstood.
Misunderstood I can understand, I won’t harm them but I’m still running far far away if I encounter any of these foot-long crawlies….brrr…I have shivers down my spine just writing about it…
Can you spot the stick insect amidst the twigs?
Here it is, on my mum’s hand!
In its indoor education centre, visitors can view a huge collection of spiders, beetles, bugs and frogs. Kept safely behind glass walls, phew!
At the end of our tour, we were each given a little container with a butterfly inside that had just freshly emerged from the pupa and was ready to fly. You can open the container and release the butterfly into the air.
DD was so excited about this, she was given a second container. That was fun! 🙂
For the educational and informative value, I really would like to go back again, but I have to say the entrance fee is a rather prohibitive factor.
Whilst I acknowledge that I really shouldn’t complain given the favourable exchange rate between the SGD and MYR, hopefully in future, the farm could find a way to either provide more value in the experience, or lower the pricing a little more.
Penang Butterfly Farm
No. 830, Jalan Teluk Bahang, 11050 Penang, Malaysia.