Friday, 6 September 2019

Butterfly Biosphere

Summer gently fades, and autumn seems to be instilling itself by stealth into the capital's infrastructure, but a reminder of the heady days and tropical climates experienced here this year can still be found in the heart of Mayfair's Grosvenor Square in the form of a Butterfly Biosphere. Butterfly Biosphere: Pleasures of the Nectar Dome is a pop-up initiative that aims to highlight the important issue of butterfly conservation whilst giving visitors the chance to enjoy a taste of 'nectar' (which was delicious!), from food specialists and creative studio Bompass and Parr. Having created a lepidopterarium full of my own signature paper butterflies earlier this year, I was eager to see this one containing the real things, full of movement and bright irridescent colour. Though cosy and hot, the space is well designed and full of information about the 76% decline in the butterfly population across the capital, what visitors can do to help arrest this decline, and information on the butterfly species native to London and Mayfair - Red Admiral, Gatekeeper, Speckled Wood, Adonis Blue and Brimstone, as well as the small part you can play in maintaining and hopefully increasing their presence in London.

The Biosphere Dome in Grosvenor Square

This engaging young man gamely sported the Biosphere assistants uniform for me whilst I awaited my turn to enter the dome. The uniform was emblazoned with a dashing Monarch butterfly/Ladybird print motif, and was enhanced by the addition of several silver butterfly badges. Flutterly fabulous!

There was a brief queue time, before you are instructed to be mindful of the butterflies, and handed a pair of these groovy rainbow kaleidoscope glasses that colour your vision and refract your sight like the compound vision of a butterfly creating a slightly disorientating, psychedelic experience. You are then admitted into the sweltering dome. Once inside as you can see, the tropical temperatures caused my camera lens to mist over. It took several minutes before the camera was able to adjust and acclimatise to the heat by which time the butterflies came fluttering by thick and fast.

As is standard with most actual lepidopterariums there was a feeding station - Butterfly Banquet - laden with succulent fruits, and also an 'Emergence Chamber' where you can observe the process of the caterpillars emerging from the cocoon of their chrysalis into fully fledged butterflies. There is also a Butterfly Throne with wings where you can sit and pose for all of those essential social media selfies.

Butterflies really are such beautiful creatures whose only rival in the pretty stakes in the lepidopterarium came from the flora installed in the Biosphere. The orchids were particularly gorgeous.

It was a pleasure to encounter and chat with this lady who was as enthusiastic about butterflies as myself, with a Morpho butterfly resting on her knee, who then pointed out her own personal homage to lepidopterae - a blue butterfly tattoo.

I liked the juxtaposition in this picture of the real Morpho above, against his lifeless silver-foil imitator. And watching this would-be escapee below, trying to flee the Biosphere before being captured and returned to the fold in a butterfly net. Perhaps he'd been watching Papillon!

Butterfly Biosphere: Pleasures of the Nectar Dome
until 15th September
Grosvenor Square