This past September, I was lucky enough to be hired as an Entomology Assistant at Reiman Gardens! I love my job and have learned a lot about the care and containment of native and exotic butterflies, and I’m taking this opportunity to brag about my place of work.
About the Butterfly Wing The Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing is a 2,500-square-foot indoor tropical conservatory that houses up to 800 live butterflies of up to 80 different native and exotic species. Visitors are welcome to walk through our garden and enjoy our colorful butterfly paradise. The Butterfly Wing is almost 100% glass, maximizing the amount of natural light for our plants and butterflies. Both the entrance and exit to the Wing is sealed with airtight double-doors to make sure none of our butterflies escape.
About the Butterfly Lab Our Butterfly Lab receives shipments of butterfly pupae almost every week from suppliers all over the world. When we get all of these chrysalises in the mail, we have to check for parasites and make sure all pupae are accounted for before we can do anything else. Then, we glue the tip of each chrysalis to a string until we have all of the pupae lined up by species. These strings are then pinned to a board and hung upside-down in our viewing cases, where the butterflies can emerge and dry out their wings properly.
A Typical Day as an Entomology Assistant
- Mornings are fun because I get to release all of the butterflies that emerged overnight into the Butterfly Wing. Each butterfly must be accounted for before it can be released, so I have to enter the species of each butterfly into our database one at a time. We keep track of how many butterflies are in the Wing at any given time on our Reiman Gardens Butterfly App, which compiles our data into fun statistics (http://rgbutterflyapp.com/). One by one, I remove each butterfly from the glass viewing cases that we keep our pupae in. I move the butterflies to a small, breathable box, which will serve as the transfer container when I bring the butterflies across the hall and into the Wing.
- After the morning release, a series of chores must be completed. Dead butterflies have to be removed from the Wing and disposed of properly, nectar dishes must be refilled, and the plants in the Wing and greenhouse need to be watered. We make our own nectar and put out fruit bowls in the wing because the butterflies eat a lot, and the nectar from the flowers in the butterfly wing sometimes just isn’t enough.
- A lot of the time, we don’t have enough volunteers to help out in the Butterfly Wing, so us entomology students have to fill in the gaps. Two people are required to guard the doors in the Wing at all times, since the butterfly wing is an NSDA containment facility and no butterflies can get out under any circumstances. This sounds like a really intense job, but it mostly consists of chatting with the visitors and enjoying the butterflies. It’s the most relaxing part of my job. (If you want to help us out and volunteer in the Butterfly Wing sometime, visit http://www.reimangardens.com/careers/volunteers/
- Afternoons consist mostly of cleaning and closing. The afternoon release goes the same as the morning release, except we like to do it before the gardens close so that visitors can watch us release the butterflies – they really get a kick out of that! Before I leave for the day, I clean up the lab (sweeping, mopping, wiping down the cases, doing dishes) and then I close down the Butterfly Wing for the night at 4:30.
I love everything about my job and feel so lucky to get to work with some of our planet’s most beautiful creatures every day! Stop by Reiman Gardens to visit our butterflies as well as our other exhibits when you get the chance – ISU students get in free if you flash your ID at the door!