Spreading their wings

Neill Sams, the owner of Orchid Alley, remembers the recent frustration of running around with a butterfly net with his 5-year-old grandson Sean. 

Trying to catch the fluttering butterfly beauties to observe up close was a challenge, to say the very least.

Sams decided to take the matter into his own hands. Sams and his wife have opened up the first Kauai enclosed butterfly garden inside their Kapaa Orchid shop.

“There’s something for everybody,” Sams said at the recent opening. “We’ve got the koi pond, some of my prize-winning orchids from my personal collection and the butterflies. It has a real Zen quality to it.”

The symbolism of a butterfly is said to be transformation due to the insect’s fascinating life cycle. Some see the winged beauties for their connection to the soul.

Eleven-year-old Isabella Kasprzyk from Kapaa called the citrus swallowtail butterflies majestic after visiting the garden. 

“They go through a metamorphosis from the eggs to the caterpillars to the butterflies,” Kaspryzyk. “One or two landed on my flower.”

Other visiting children found joy in watching the newly hatched butterflies beneath the mesh-enclosed space.

With a life-expectancy of up to an average of 17 days, the population of butterflies in the garden is always changing. It’s currently comprised of citrus swallowtails and monarch varieties.

“It’s awesome,” said 9-year-old Justin Panui-Shockey. “I like everything about the garden. Five of the butterflies landed on my flower.”

Six-year-old Wai Kitamura was astounded at the wonder of the butterflies that touched down on the flowers she was holding. She held herself still for as long as she could until each one took off in flight, but still within the boundaries of the net enclosure.

“I got 14 of them,” Kitamura said. “They’re beautiful.”

 Butterfly enthusiasts who want to experience the grace and eloquence of the flying insects are encouraged to replenish supplies of cocoons. Sams is offering cocoon collectors a deal. He said for every monarch or citrus swallowtail butterfly cocoon a child finds on either crown flower plants or citrus trees, that they bring it to the Orchid Alley garden. The child will then be allowed to bring a friend with them at no charge. He only asks that for every cocoon taken from nature, the child leaves one behind. 

Eli Raymond was surprised at how easily the butterflies came to him in the butterfly and koi garden. Protection of them was foremost in his mind.

“Don’t hurt the butterflies,” Raymond shouted out to the others in the garden. 

Butterfly and Koi Garden hours are 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 4-1383 Kuhio Highway. They are closed on Sundays. The current walk-in special is $7 for adults and $3 for children. A family of four with one accompanying adult admission is $15. No strollers please. Info: 822-0486 or www.orchidalleykauai.com.

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