While you are strolling through a Vero Beach garden, a glimpse of bright orange amongst the greenery catches your eye. This is not a flower, for it is in flight. It is a butterfly, beating its paper-thin, delicate wings. The orange-and-black coloring makes you think of a monarch, yet the pattern is quite different and the wingspan is smaller. Then you catch sight of the undersides of the wings. To your amazement, they reveal an entirely different color scheme — they are marked by brilliant spots of iridescent silver, glittering in the sunlight like a pirate’s treasure.
The living work of art that you have seen is a gulf fritillary. Like the monarch, it is one of many beautiful butterfly species seen in the Vero Beach area.
Butterflies would be amazing creatures even if they spent their whole lives in what is really just their adult form. The fact that they transform from flightless caterpillars into flying creatures, which seem like not only different individuals but completely different life forms, makes them all the more fascinating.
The wonder of butterfly metamorphosis is something 12-year-old Quinn Roberts, a Junior Interpreter at the Environmental Learning Center, has often observed firsthand. Quinn and his parents, Peter and Meagan, raise butterflies every year. They have been able to watch the entire life cycle, beginning from the egg, for a number of local species, including gulf fritillaries, monarchs, zebra longwings, black swallowtails and atalas.
As a Junior Interpreter, Quinn enjoys sharing his enthusiasm for butterflies.
“We’re interpreting the environment and trying to teach people to appreciate it and protect it. It’s a good program.” He adds matter-of-factly, “I’ve participated in a lot of ELC things over the years, and I’ve gotten pretty well known there because of my caterpillars.”