Butterfly House A Thrill For Tulsa State Fairgoers

Thursday, October 7th 2010, 9:46 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- There's a new exhibit at the Tulsa State Fair that's getting a lot of attention. The News On 6 got a behind-the-scenes tour of what keeps the Butterfly House going.

It's all run by a man from Leonard, who arranges butterfly exhibits all over the world.

The Butterfly birthing center is a small but active nursery. Every few minutes another butterfly emerges. They hang from strips of glue on curtains until they're ripe. And behind that curtain is David Bohlken.

"And now it's going to be my job to play with these and get these all glued up. Here's some more. And every one is different," he said.

The box arrived Thursday from the Philippines. It is packed with hundreds of pupa native to that country, but considered exotic here.

"They are all starting to ripen," Bohlken said.

That means by late Friday or Saturday they'll all be butterflies. They'll join thousands of others in the Butterfly House right in the middle of the QuikTrip Center at the Tulsa Fairgrounds.

More than 5,000 butterflies, from 25-30 different species, fly free in the mesh tent at the fairgrounds. They land on people, some who just want to sit and watch it happen, and others who go around collecting all they can.  It's not hard because butterflies are not afraid.

"Some of them you scoop up and put them on you and some just land on you," one girl said.

Butterflies only live two or three days. That's why anytime the show is open Bohlken is working behind the scenes to raise more butterflies.

"It's the biggest challenge, the biggest challenge, to make sure we have enough butterflies for the shows," he said.

To accomplish that, Bohlken pays families in Central America and Asia to gather the pupa. It keeps him supplied and provides the family an income.

"For these people in these countries, we think of $100 or $200 a month is not that much, for them it's the difference of whether they go to school or have a car, all the benefits that money can bring in those countries and I've seen it with my own eyes," he said.

Tickets to the Butterfly House are $3. The family that runs it lives here, but they travel all over, mainly North America, but look for them back here next year.