If you have never seen a pudgy green, yellow, and black striped caterpillar holding onto a blade of grass with every one of its many itty-bitty feet, you simply haven’t lived!!! This was one of the pleasures that awaited me when I visited Rainbow’s End Butterfly Farm, just down the road a piece from Pawling Village.
Of course, the main attraction at Pat and Cornelius du Plessis’ place is the gorgeous Monarch butterflies into which those colorful little worms transform. They are patiently raised from egg to September release, just in time for their yearly migration to the forests of Mexico. There they will spend the winter before returning north, in time for spring.
As I toured this wonderful place, Pat made sure that I understood just how special these creatures are. The chance of an egg making it all the way to the butterfly stage is slim. Only one in ten succeeds, which is why these fairyesque beauties are endangered. Their habitat is endangered as well, and it is that very fact which makes Rainbow’s End so unique. It is all about the habitat here. Milkweed is plentiful, especially tropical milkweed, since it is the only plant on which the females will lay their eggs. Plants and wildflowers that provide much needed shelter and nourishment abound, and everyone’s energy is dedicated to the breeding process.
Rainbow’s End is certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat Site, providing food, water, cover, and places to raise species’ young. It is also certified as a cultured pollination garden, and until last year, Pat and Cornelius were beekeepers, as well.
Without a doubt, the highlight of my visit was the magical moment when I entered the Butterfly House. I was absolutely enchanted. A fluttering rainbow of color swirled around me as hundreds of beautiful butterflies floated past. One could plainly see the obvious love that has been lavished on these insects.
“Every day is amazing,” smiled Pat, and it was easy to see why. Each flitting butterfly seemed to respond to Pat’s voice. They were calmed by her presence, and Cornelius believes that they actually bounce their delicate little heads when Pat talks to them.
These two butterfly enthusiasts are truly committed to “welcoming nature back.” They love sharing their knowledge and expertise, especially with children. School groups take part in nature walks and other activities designed to teach and delight. There is even a charming gift shop filled with wonderful books about raising Monarchs and establishing a natural habitat for them. There are also interesting and affordable trinkets that can be tucked away as stocking stuffers.
An ancient Indian legend states that if you catch a Monarch butterfly, make a wish, and release it unharmed, that butterfly will whisper your deepest desire to the Great Spirit and your wish will come true. In fact, it was thought that each butterfly possessed the ability to bring lost spirits back to us. So it seems perfectly clear that, even back when civilization was new, the magic of the Monarch was well understood!
Contact Rainbow’s End, at 845-832-6749, for information about hours and tours.