Bergen County zoo revives popular butterfly exhibit

On Saturday, nine brilliant orange Monarch butterflies could be seen clustered at a single food plate in the new “World of Butterflies” exhibit at the Bergen County Zoological Park in Paramus. And what were they lunching on? Decaying pineapple, stale orange, moldering banana and rancid cantaloupe.

“They’re feeding on fruit — the more rotten and ripe, the better,” said Jennifer Verstraete, senior keeper at the zoo, which has brought back its popular butterfly exhibit to a 5,000-square-foot netted enclosure where it has appeared, on and off, for some 10 years. Some seasons, the enclosure has been used for birds.

The exhibit was launched Friday when some 1,000 butterflies, farmed in Florida, were released in the enclosure.


Monarchs, Black Swallowtails and Painted Ladies — all native to the area — were flitting in and among the white pines, thistles, viburnum, butterfly bushes, and flowers around which visitors ambled, confined to a boardwalk within the enclosure. A glass tank, set into a wall, displayed numerous chrysalises of all three species, dangling like clothes on a line.

Butterflies might seem like a minor attraction in a 52-year-old county zoo that boasts ocelots, tapirs, spider monkeys, bobcats, bison, anteaters and alligators. But visitors love them — especially this year, when butterflies have been making headlines.

An “invasion” of Red Admiral butterflies — clouds of them — has been making news in New Jersey this spring. This early-season butterfly might have emerged even more prematurely this year because of the freakishly mild winter, Verstraete said. And that means that the predators that would normally feed on them — warblers, orioles and other birds — were not yet back from their Southern vacation.

“World of Butterflies” is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, through Sept. 4. Admission is $1 for non-zoo members, free for members. The zoo is located at Van Saun County Park, 216 Forest Ave., Paramus.

Admission to the zoo is $4 for Bergen County residents, $8 for non-residents. For more information, call 201-262-3771, ext. 110, or go to

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