Marietta’s butterfly house

It’s not enough for the Huffman sisters of Devola to simply look at the colorful inhabitants of the butterfly house at Thomson’s Landscaping.

“When you put your fingers out, a lot of the butterflies crawl on your finger,” 8-year-old Tess Huffman said.

Each summer for the last several years, employees of Thomson’s, at 26130 State Route 7 in Reno, have built a wood-framed structure enclosed by screens and filled it with plants conducive to the feeding of butterflies and caterpillars. It’s a free attraction for area residents, and the Huffman family – including Tess and her sisters Addie, 11, and Celia, 5, and mother Mollie – make a point to visit a couple times each summer.

“We have so many people that bring their children, their grandchildren,” said Thomson’s manager Deborah Herb. “A lot of the adults really are fascinated by it too.”

While the population of the butterfly house will grow in the coming weeks, right now it might be the best chance of spotting monarch butterflies in the area.

“A lot of people would say it’s one of the worst seasons in memory,” said Jim McCormac, biologist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife. “Normally, we’d have a lot by now, and it’s just not happening.”

McCormac suspects the heavy rain this area and Ohio have seen in recent weeks is disrupting the life cycles of butterflies native to the Buckeye State, as well as hindering the progress of migratory species, like the monarchs.

“I’ve seen two monarchs,” he said. “(And) I’m out in the field a lot.”

The monarchs winter in Mexico, primarily in a mountainous region in the central part of the country that has been targeted by timber poachers, McCormac said.

“They certainly had to run a gauntlet of really bad weather between there and here, and it thinned them out,” he said.

Steve Weber, a Lowell resident and amateur lepidopterist, said he’s only started seeing more butterflies, including monarchs, in the last week or so. He said people are more likely to see butterflies in the afternoon, as the day gets warmer. A good spot to find them is along creeks, away from houses, Weber said.

“If you want to see them, that’s a good place to go,” he said.

The butterflies at Thomson’s initially came from Florida, but they didn’t fly here. They travel overnight by truck, Herb said.

“They literally just put butterflies … in an envelope with some padding and ship them. It’s amazing,” she said.

The live butterflies are accompanied by chrysalises, which are pinned to a wall in the butterfly house. Several butterflies emerged from their chrysalises on Tuesday, but more remain inside for now.

Eventually, the butterflies in the house begin laying eggs, from which will hatch caterpillars that eventually form their own chrysalises.

“You find them under the benches; you find them hanging off of the two-by-fours,” Herb said.