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By Hayley Imel B

ryan Reynolds, an Oklahoma Electric Co- op member, spent a career in the Air Force defending the land of the free. Now his

non-profi t organization is taking fl ight protect- ing a different set of wings: the butterfl y. Summertime yields a wide array of the winged wonders for Oklahoma, including the world’s smallest butterfly, the Western Pigmy Blue. Yet Reynolds said the state’s creatures are facing big conservation problems. “I didn’t know butterfl ies were in peril, you know, driving by an Alfalfa fi eld thousands would splatter on my windshield window,” Reynolds said. “It’s all too easy to forget specialists require niche habitats, and if those go away they’ll be gone forever.” Reynolds established the Butterfl ies of the World Foundation in 2007 to bring public awareness to conservation. He said efforts to maintain habitats are desperately needed to keep the butterfl y popula- tion from declining dramatically.

One such habitat is making history on the move. Jane Breckinridge, a transplanted Oklahoma native and East Central Electric Co-op member, owns one of the largest moveable butterfl y houses in the na- tion. “The Butterfl y House” has a standard fl ight area of 40 by 90 feet, an outside “Butterfl y Birthing Center” emergence viewing chamber and an addi- tional outside area devoted to education about but- terfl ies, metamorphosis and migration. “It’s the greatest job in the world,” Breckinridge

said. “It’s hard to explain, but butterfl ies just have a really special place in people’s lives and imagina- tions.”

She and her husband broke free of their corporate

cocoon culture in Minneapolis to base the butter- fl ies in Bixby, Okla. Now they take more than 5,000 butterflies to state fairs across the country. Ac- cording to Breckinridge, more than 60,000 people viewed the last showing at the Minnesota State Fair. For three dollars, fairgoers can get all afl utter im-


mersed in exotic butterfl ies from around the world, including rare species imported from family farms in Costa Rica, El Salvador and Asia. Breckinridge said guests can stay in the exhibit all day viewing, touching and even picking up the unique breeds. For those who want to get out and spread their wings, Reynolds recommends taking a venture to a local wildlife preservation’s “butterfl y count.” Indi- viduals gather on preserves on a scheduled morn- ing, sign up for teams and walk around a section of the preserve noting numbers of species. “It’s a great way to learn the local butterflies, get out and about, and meet like-minded people,” Reynolds said. “Most of the time you can get into areas of the preserves you may not otherwise be al- lowed into.”

To help increase the butterfl y population, Reyn- olds said there are many ways for folks to conserve the creatures in their own backyard. For instance, a planting pot fi lled with dill or fennel seed will at- tract Black Swallowtails during the summer. Reyn- olds also said Monarchs will migrate to Oklahoma full force in the fall, and a small patch of milkweed is all that is needed to draw a vibrant crowd. Butterflies are more than a thing of beauty. According to Reynolds, the presence of butterfl ies is an excellent indicator of the quality of a given habitat. If a species begins to dis- appear, it is likely there is some- thing wrong with the area. “If you make an effort to con- serve butterfl ies, it will indirect- ly or directly affect all of us,“ Reynolds said.

Reynolds provides free age- specific butterfly education courses for all ages and pho- tography courses for adults. To register, visit his founda- tion’s website at www. OL

Better the Butterfl ies Bryan Reynolds, founder of the Butterfl ies of the World Foundation, provides tips on how you can protect butterfl ies.

• Plant shade trees • Avoid using chemicals in gardens • Xeriscape your yard

• Implement patch burning/patch grazing techniques • Plant butterfl y nectar sources (fl owers or fruit) • Plant larval food plants (type specifi c to butterfl y breed) • Reduce energy


Welcome to the Jungle

Ever seen 5,000 butterfl ies at once? Join The Butterfl y House owner Jane Breckinridge at a showing near you, or visit her website at


Iowa State Fair , Des Moines, IA August 11 – 21, 2011

Minnesota State Fair, St. Paul, MN August 25 – September 5, 2011

Oklahoma State Fair, OKC, OK September 15 – September 25, 2011

Tulsa State Fair, Tulsa, OK September 29 – October 9, 2011

Photos courtesy of Bryan Reynolds

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