Georgia’s Callaway Gardens Celebrates Butterflies

Georgia’s Callaway Resort and Gardens, 2500 acres of flowering woodland beauty located southwest of teeming Atlanta, is home to the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center, one of North America’s largest tropical butterfly conservatories. This year the Center celebrates its thirtieth anniversary, and Callaway has declared 2018 the Year of the Butterfly, with special events scheduled all year. Monday through Friday the Center presents Butterflies 101, a slide show and discussion hosted by resident butterfly experts.

Butterfly Keeper for a Day,  an activity scheduled intermittently when a new shipment of butterflies is due to arrive, allows visitors to spend the day following one of the Center’s official Butterfly Keepers around. Callaway isn’t just for butterflies; Entomologist for a Day, next scheduled for June 16, invites guests to spend a day and evening learning about bugs, identifying whatever they’ve captured and finding out what it’s like to study insects.

a waterfall inside the butterfly habitat

September will see a whole series of events leading up to Callaway’s first annual Butterfly Festival on September 21—23. Breakfast with Butterflies, scheduled for September 9, welcomes guests to eat breakfast in the Conservatory as the butterflies are waking up. September’s Butterfly of the Month  is the beautiful blue Morpho, and a series of receptions set for September 8, 15 and 22 allow visitors to stay late and enjoy a glass of wine or grape juice while watching the majestic Morphos, which are more active in the evening.

A Paperkite butterfly perching on a penta

October is Migration Month, and the Center will focus on migrants such as the Monarch, which at the time will be undertaking its epic autumn journey to its wintering grounds in Mexico.

The Butterfly Center gets butterflies in the form of chrysalids from farms all over the world, skipping the caterpillar stage since it involves the future butterfly chewing its way through an impressive amount of foliage.

I visited the Center in May, when the Butterfly of the Month was the Owl, a native of Central and South America; its “eye spots” do indeed make it look like an owl. According to Carolyn the Butterfly Keeper, Owls are early risers—when she arrives at 6:45 a.m., the Conservatory is filled with flapping Owls. During my visit the Owls were relaxing and enjoying a snack of juice from their favorite fruits. The Conservatory itself is a big, light-filled habitat full of flowering plants, tropical foliage, waterfalls, and of course butterflies. These butterflies come from all over the world and seem to enjoy fluttering, perching and feeding on the flowers and fruits supplied for them. Anyone interested in encouraging butterflies to visit may want to take note of the plants the Conservatory houses. These include lantana, penta, marigold, shrimp plant, bottle brush and firecracker plant; still, as a sign advises, all you need for a butterfly garden is “a few carefully-selected plants and a tolerance for chewed leaves.”

Owl butterflies feeding on slices of fruit

Callaway Resort and Gardens is located at Pine Mountain, Georgia, about sixty miles southwest of the Atlanta airport, and thirty miles east of Columbus, Georgia. For more information about visiting the Butterfly Center, check the website at or call 1-855-348-4170.

all photos Kathie Farnell

Kathie Farnell
Kathie Farnell
Freelance writer Kathie Farnell lives in Foley, Alabama, ten miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico, with her husband, photographer Jack Purser, and a flock of cats. She has written travel articles for print and web publications since 1992, and also produces programming for public television and radio through her nonprofit corporation, Artemis Media Project. The couple enjoy exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations and spending time on the Gulf beaches.

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