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Why did we choose the name Butterfly Arc?


My history of the Butterfly Houses in Italy and in the World By Enzo Moretto


Esapolis "The Living Museum of the MicroMegaWorld"


Why did we choose the name Butterfly Arc?


Enzo Moretto in 1989 thought about the logo and the name of Butterfly Arc, which was previously called Butterfly House, based on two main concepts:


Arc: word that means both "bow" and "ark". Also in English the words Arch and Ark mean "bow" and "ark", but Arc is also an ancient term parola che significa sia Arco che Arca –Anche in inglese le parole Arch e Ark significano arco e arca, ma Arc è anche un termine arcaico franco/inglese arco dal latino arcus.

In the Butterfly Arc logo, a butterfly appears to fly out of an arch that symbolizes Noah's Ark. However, the arch is colored and symbolizes the rainbow. The logo refers to the vicissitudes of the universal flood to the Ark symbol of salvation and in particular to the final phase of the deluge, when God places the rainbow as a symbol of peace between him, men and animals.

Here is the passage from Genesis (Genesis 9) that most inspired the name of Butterfly Arc:

Genesis 9

1 Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.

2 The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands.

3 Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

4 “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.

5 And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.

6 “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.

7 As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.”

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him:

9 “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you

10 and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth.

11 I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come:

13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds,

15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.

16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.

17 So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”





My hystory of the Butterfly Houses in Italy and in the World
By Enzo Moretto


I have been asked several times to write something about the Butterfly Houses. I realize that sometimes you have to stop in chasing dreams to tell what has been done to date. It is a pleasure to be called upon after so many years of solitary and often crowded experience of enthusiastic followers, but also studded with many obstacles and difficulties. What I remember, from the small Italian stage, is that when I started talking about this project, absolutely nobody believed it. It was true that the idea revolved among fans of entomology of the time, but very few had the moment of "madness" to join me in this adventure, except my family and the naturalist Gabriella Tamino who probably had at least two good reasons, that of coming from a family with a great biological and entomological culture and the other that would become my wife. I am happy to see that without her I would not have succeeded in this undertaking. The butterfly house also saw other substantial essential contributions at two different times of the beginning, but which soon left the project, due to its costs, difficulties and commitment. To conclude this little piece of history, we must recognize the exemplary role of the Municipality of Montegrotto Terme, which still today is an important partner of the project that has been hosted on public land since the beginning, as also the investment in facilities for the creation of the center.

My adventure with the first Butterfly House in Montegrotto Terme

My adventure with the Butterfly House began long before these initiatives were discussed in 1974. At the time I was 16 and, like many naturalists, I had a passion that went back to early childhood. The first time I talked about the project together with prof. Antonio Balasso, was during the visits to the greenhouses deThe then Professional Institute for Agriculture in Padua. This was because at the time I was attending the nearby Institute for Agricultural Experts, which had attracted my interest as a student for various subjects including entomology. There I introduced myself in the laboratories that, they tell me, still retain many of the preparations I did at the time, and I had as teacher Prof. Francesco Tremolada.

At that time I could reason on what was an old dream, common to all entomologists and naturalists, I would also add naturophiles, in general: create an eden garden for the most beautiful and fascinating flying insects: butterflies. The idea was to use the thermal baths of the nearby Euganean basin with protected environments in which to grow a small tropical ecosystem. To do this they served, in addition to specific knowledge, a sufficient dose of unconsciousness, typical of young age, and economic resources. In this path, which led to the inauguration of the first Butterfly House in Montegrotto Terme, there have been many intermediate stages. The organization of a large exhibition on entomology mostly live in 1984 at Forte Bel Vedere in Florence, the transfer to the Dutch Agricultural University of Wagenigen, under the guidance of the then rector, prof. Louis Schoonhoven, to complete the studies on insects continuing those done at the University of Agriculture with prof. Vincenzo Girolami and the prof. Angelo Peruffo and Natural Sciences with Prof. Margherita Turchetto. These included computer applications on population dynamics, biochemistry, electrophysiology and even the first applications of biological and integrated control. This gave me the opportunity to imagine an environment controlled more by natural ecological mechanisms than by the chemistry of pesticides, which is also incompatible with butterflies. This, for the time, was certainly not so obvious. In the realization of my first project, I do not remember what was the hardest thing to do, if to convince the local authorities to give me a space where to carry out the project, to move within health laws and regulations for the import of exotic species, to find economic resources or inventing everything from a healthy plant. Raising butterflies was another problem, namely how to grow the philosophy of butterfly farming in distant tropical regions, such as Southeast Asia and Central America. At the time there were no mobile phones, internet and even fax machines were not used. It must be considered that it dealt with subjects who lived in tropical forests, often in third world countries. Of course it is, that at least this last difficulty was overcome thanks to the correspondence that I had with local entomologists and gatherers. Other contacts were rapidly forming under the pressure of the English, who had put down the first milestones in some tropical regions in the 1950s, but who became able to actually breed butterflies and send their chrysalises, only in half of the 80s.

The birth of the first butterflies houses

The United Kingdom of Victorian culture had produced a naturalistic sensitivity and a network of relationships with tropical countries rooted in the population that hardly finds comparison with other countries. From this point of view Montegrotto Terme, and more generally, Italy, were not London and England. It is therefore to the English that we owe the merit of having favored the birth of both the first houses of butterflies, which were immediately appreciated and became a center of diffusion also in other countries of northern Europe, United States, Thailand and Malaysia.

The first suggestions of the idea of "butterfly house" we find in a text by Noel Humphreys of 1858 (Humphreys, 1858). Probably the first insect open to the public was made in 1881 at the London Zoo. But only towards the end of the seventies, beyond the already mentioned experimental projects in some tropical areas, the first small aviary for butterflies began to take shape, drawing on a widespread culture of passionate breeders and lovers.

This realization is preceded by another experimental project started on the island of Guernsey in 1977, which would then lead to the most definitive form of the Butterfly House. The project found its place in this place both for the well-known mild climate of the island and for the low cost of greenhouses once used to grow tomatoes, but at that time in crisis for the Dutch competition.

This first experience gave the momentum to inaugurate the first real structure aimed at the public, the Butterfly House of Syon Park in London. This historical structure, despite its wide echo in the media and the public, no longer exists today, because it was demolished at the end of 2007 to make room for a 5-star hotel complex. In the space of a decade in England there were about 50 house of butterfly but in the following years many could not consolidate their existence and closed. 

The butterfly houses become European

While our Italian structure in Montegrotto Terme had its own independent conception, the other structures that arose in Europe in the second half of the 80s had the British as designers. These early structures are still today a point of reference in the sector.

The butterfly houses in Orient and America

The first overseas structures were built in 1988 in the United States, always inspired by the British, such as the Butterfly House in Fort Lauderdale and Callaway Gardens. These were the first of a long series. In two decades since 1990 and especially in the early 2000s these structures colonized various states in North America. In the East, the Malaysian Penang Butterfly Farm deserves special mention. This was inaugurated in 1986 and was probably the first in Southeast Asia.

The Italian Butterfly Houses

There are hundreds of structures in the world both independent and within other initiatives, such as parks and zoos. I think that today we can not define Butterfly House, as is often happening, an exhibition of live butterflies, but must have a certain consistency, even in size, and must count on experienced graduates. It should also propose, like all modern zoos, projects on education, conservation and research. The existing Italian structures, apart from the Butterfly Arc of Montegrotto Terme, are practically all born after 2000. Among these, the first one I followed was that of Monteserra in the province of Catania, which is also the first initiative of the genre in the South Italy. Later I designed the Butterfly Houses of Milano Marittima, Bordano, Collodi, University of Catania, Gangi and the biostructure of Benevento, and many others also abroad as the Butterfly House of Malta or I provided my advice for more complex projects such as the aquaterrarium of the Vienna Zoo or the Bull of Renzo Piano in Genoa and also for the Moscow Zoo. In many respects, the Butterfly Arc model at Montegrotto Terme was the first to divide the flight environments of the butterflies for macro tropical zoogeographic areas: African, Amazonia and Indo-Australian.

As a butterfly house presents itself

The first version of my house of butterflies included a path that can be summarized in an important entrance-ticket-shop dedicated, room with video, educational and introductory collection to butterflies and then the tropical garden with butterflies visible in the various moments of their life cycle from the egg to the caterpillar chrysalis and therefore the adult butterfly. This first model of butterfly houses is today increasingly expanded and made even more interpretive. This means that, in addition to communicating scientific, educational, historical or other cultural contents, it becomes able to grasp in advance the approach and expectation of the greatest possible number of visitors, putting them in a position to receive material content (direct interaction). , intellectual and emotional. The tropical gardens have been modified and have been separated to host Amazonian, African and Indo-Australian species, recovering the origin of the tropical butterflies housed there. In addition, the environments are populated by living collections of other small animal species of both invertebrates and vertebrates. These have been selected for their ability to transmit contents in the most interactive and contextualized way possible. The video points have been multiplied to broaden the information offer by making the introductory video room secondary and "by-passable" for those who have already seen it. The collection of didactic butterflies has become increasingly integrated with graphics and texts and updated on themes not only of a biological nature, but also of specific interest for conservation in nature, the description of particular phenomena, and the artistic, historical and symbolic aspects. Finally, two separate and specific sections for the large live silk moths and one dedicated to the metamorphosis of the chrysalis with the butterflies hatch are destined. Today's Butterfly Houses range from a hundred square meters up to over a thousand square meters of garden area with butterflies. Their opening is often seasonal, influenced by various factors such as tourist flows or the climate. In winter they usually close to the public, in warm climates they are always open, while those established in structures such as large zoos are still open all year round. These centers offer a wide range of proposals for visitors from school groups to families, seniors and organized groups who want to meet some of the world's most beautiful butterfly species live, learn about their development, biology, ethology and ecological importance and in general and of many organisms, plants and animals that characterize some fascinating aspects of the biodiversity of our planet. The activity of the Butterfly Houses today has also evolved very much in relation to the demand to give visible quality to the contribution on conservation, teaching and research, obviously within the economic and operational limits of these structures that often have to rely on means to support themselves.

The Butterflies Farms

The Butterflies farms, which are a real naturalistic novelty of the last millennium, could not have existed without the Butterfly Farms that arose in various tropical places. Today, not without problems, the chrysalises produced in an increasingly sustainable and controlled by these bioproducers, arrive weekly to all the Butterfly Houses of the planet. The first realities of this type arose more or less simultaneously in an important way in the second half of the 80s. Today there are hundreds of breeders, many of whom converge their products mainly on some sorting facilities and also promote conservation and sustainability projects. Among these the example of Costa Rica, one of the first, has now spread to virtually all central American states and to countries in South America such as Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Suriname. In the East, the first butterfly farms, in addition to the already mentioned Malaysian Butterfly Farm in Penang, arose where there was greater political stability and relations with the West. These include Thailand and the Philippines, but where possible, also in other countries in the area, as the opportunity presented itself. As a first parenthesis, for those who are more interested in entomological issues, I remember that between 86 and 87 in the areas of central Malacca where there was a historical tradition in the collection of insects, and in particular in the triangle between Tapah, Cameron Highlands and Ipoh , the first attempts at butterfly farming were born. I remember how thanks to these attempts we could see the first caterpillars of one of the largest and most beautiful butterflies on the planet: the Trogonoptera brookiana albescens. At the end of the 80s, I was also able to import his chrysalises and see them in flight at Montegrotto Terme. At the time there was also the discussion on how this butterfly was bred for years to be marketed for ornamental and collectibles. Unfortunately until then there were no farms, and all the specimens were collected in the wild, especially males, largely when they leaned on the ground in large numbers for the so-called pudding. The caterpillars of this species, apart from a publication by Straatman in 1961 for the trogon form, were practically unknown, as were the nursing plants. At the time I took the first photos of one of these, now known as the fowling Aristolochia, with the caterpillars of this great and beautiful butterfly. Unfortunately, I have to say that these farming practices in this area ended very early and even today the specimens exposed in throttles in the Cameron Highlands area contain only specimens hunted, and not reared.
The tropical Australian area, for various reasons, has remained quite excluded from the butterfly farming aimed at sending chrysalises to the Butterfly Houses. This despite the fact that in this area the very first butterfly ranching projects for the production of butterflies for collection and ornament were born, with the aim of generating useful economies for local proportions and conservation of butterfly habitats. The main project was carried out in New Guinea and in particular in the area between Wau and Bulolo in Papua (Orsak, 1993). These projects were also developed other areas of the Indo-Australian area, such as Indonesia, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands and Australia (UNEP and WCMC, 2008). Today they are very small or have been interrupted somewhat due to instability and local social problems. On this has also a part of responsibility of international legislation very short-sighted and prisoner of ideological environmentalism and of itself, which, even today, practically makes unsustainable the breeding of species easily breedable and which could become an engine of cultural growth and sustainable with great implications also for nature conservation. Finally, although in Australia we find several Butterfly Houses, these, rightly, are limited to a few local breeding species. This has probably greatly reduced its possible impact even in creating an economy capable of supporting them. The other great tropical continent, Africa, today is able to express butterfly farming projects only in some countries, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Mozambique and, alternately, Madagascar. Among these, those deserving for the socio-cultural project with government involvement, but also for the results obtained, are Kipepeo (which in Swahili means butterfly) in Malindi in Kenya (Forest Management Team, 2002; Ayiemba, 2003; Gordon & Ayiemba, 2003; Gordon, 1995), the Amani Butterfly Project in Tanzania (Brown, 2007) and the Butterfly Routes in South Africa (, which involves breeders in the network of protected areas in the north of the country and aims to educate and enhance local species.

The worldwide association of butterfly houses and international meetings

There are many other projects and protagonists of new experiences spread all over the planet that work even in very difficult conditions and for which, even the anonymous mention, can at least recognize its role and value. One of these finds in Kunming in the Chinese province of Yunnan. A further important moment in the history of the Butterfly Houses took place towards the end of the '90s with the first meetings called ICBES (International Conference of Butterfly Exhibitors and Suppliers) which was held in Costa Rica in 1997. It was followed by a very crowded conference in Florida. Until then the participants were predominantly American. It was in '99 that in South Africa, with a meeting hosted by the Butterfly Word of Cape Town, there was a first non-American participation and where the hypothesis of an international association was aired. In the following years, also thanks to a world conference held in Italy in 2003, participation and exchange of information also took place with the important contribution of many prestigious European structures. Meanwhile, in 2002, the IABE International Association of Butterfly Exhibitions was founded in the United States (later it will become IABES, as it will also include the "Suppliers", ie the butterfly suppliers), with the aim of promoting cooperation between the Butterflies and improve the management of butterfly farms, and of which I have the honor to have served for many years in the board also in the role of vice president. As with other sector associations, an interview was held with government institutions at all levels and international conferences were also opened, open to non-members. Not without difficulty, as coordinator of the ethics commission, I was able to elaborate, see accepted and published simple ethical guidelines that today represent a point of reference for all the Butterfly Houses. This is to reiterate that, who today must engage in this type of initiatives, must confront, more than in the past, with self-regulation codes that guarantee educational and conservation priorities, the prohibition to treat species and improve them adaptable in environments other than those of origin, prevent the exploitation of child labor, never endanger the survival of butterflies in the wild and guarantee animal welfare.

Conservation Projects

Today many Butterfly Houses are networked and the meetings and activities at national and international level are producing educational and research paths, even common. One of these concerns the study of parasites of the bred species.

Another consequence of international and local cooperation, albeit in the difficulties imposed by the economy, is the activation of conservation projects. The most important is "Save Papilio (Pterorus) homerus" of Jamaica, the IABES campaign in favor of one of the largest and most beautiful butterflies on the planet in serious danger of extinction. In Italy, with the association Amici della Terra, also supported by UIZA (Italian Union of Zoos and Aquariums), the project "Let's save the Aurora Aurora butterfly", the Anthocaris damone, has been realized, while for more than two decades, going down into details of the structures that I follow directly, we continue the coordination and collaboration always as Friends of the Earth Italy ONLUS, to implement, where possible, a European campaign for the conservation of butterflies and their natural environment. Another important activity is the production of articles, publications and documentaries broadcast in major television networks. These include those made in various locations on the planet where they tell, through the protagonists, the history of the butterflies, the relationship between the Malay australoid natives and the large insects of the world's oldest forests and the great migration of the monarch butterfly.


The activity of the Butterfly Houses favors the desire of people who every day ask to experience the emotion and the adventure of a live meeting with some of the most beautiful and ephemeral beings on our planet, leaving in return an important message for learn more about nature and foster a sustainable culture and economy. They are a great opportunity to increase a naturalistic culture, even in the places of origin of butterflies. These initiatives today are taking on important and different forms and developments, and a huge number of visitors each year have the opportunity to know their proposals in some way and interact with one of the most representative animal groups on our planet for shapes and colors. Whatever the future of these initiatives, they have nevertheless traced a new way of living and getting to know nature and bringing within reach everyone experiences, opportunities for research, knowledge, wonder, emotions, but also a way to approach in a relaxed and positive way. a nature often removed from our modern lifestyles.


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Esapolis "The Living Museum of the MicroMegaWorld"


The living museum of insects is born to maintain memory and traditions that bind man to the world of insects. In the museum this bond becomes evident with the millennial history of silkworm and bees, with the history of entomology linked to those of the natural sciences and the approach of the first scholars to nature.

The museum is first and foremost a great and unique opportunity to preserve, enhance and make known everything that since 1871 has characterized the activity of the experimental Bacological Station. Knowing its history means knowing a glorious institution in Padua that is famous all over the world.


The Experimental Bacological Station was founded in Padua in 1872 by decree of King Vittorio Emanuele II, on the proposal of the Minister of Agriculture, Industry and Commerce. The expenses for its establishment were supported by the Province, the Chamber of Commerce and the Municipality, with the Government's assistance.

According to the Royal Decree, the Station's aims consisted in scientific research on silkworm and mulberry, in the packaging and diffusion of healthy eggs of filugello, in the promotion of bachisericola activity through writings and conferences, in teaching to be carried out through practical exercises , to which the students were admitted.

The station was not built specifically, but a building was bought by the Province which, with appropriate adaptations, could be made suitable for the installation of research laboratories and breeding farms. The building, with an attached fund, was then leased to the Bacologico Institute by the Province itself.

First director was Enrico Verson, distinguished scholar of the anatomy and physiology of insects, who contributed to the knowledge of Bombyx mori so thorough that it was not equaled by any of his successors. This is how his work is described: "Verson gave the Station the first bases of the Scientific Institute. His researches, his studies, concern not only bachisericulture, but entomology in general. He is enrolled in that not short group of scientists who honored our country in the last century. His name crossed the borders and is still indicated to posterity as a Master.

From 1871 to 1924 the station was housed in the building originally purchased, which was located in the central Via delle Acquette; the city of Padua, however, was increasingly expanding, subtracting vital space from the Institute.

For this reason, during the Serbian congress held at the station itself in 1922, a plan for a new arrangement was presented and approved.

The provincial administration obtained an area for the construction of the building outside the city, in the district that today takes the name of Brusegana, along the road that leads from Padua to the Euganean Hills.

The new station consists of two buildings: the first houses the rooms for the management and the secretariat; a schoolroom; a room for students' exercises; a large library; a salon for the collection of cocoons and silks; the laboratories. The second is the bigattiera, formed by eleven rooms for breeding.

With the enactment of Law 1318 of 1968 the Experimental Bacological Station becomes a Specialized Section for Bachiculture of the Experimental Institute for Agrarian Zoology (also of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests).

The Specialized Section for Bachiculture in Padua has two silk collections: that of Verson, Quajat and Tonon, including samples collected and ordered for the exhibition between 1871 and 1960, and that of Ascoli Piceno, which was set up in 1916 and 1960.

The first collection, also called "di Padova", because it was created together with the station itself, is located in a large room on the ground floor of the Institute. It illustrates almost a century of the history of the liana farming, through the colorful testimony of samples of exposed yarn cocoons. It is also equipped with a collection of wild bombers covering 50 species of bombs (Bombycidae, Lasiocampidae, Saturnidae). They follow one another in an orderly manner: anatomical preparations, perfectly preserved exotic and indigenous butterflies, cocoons, chrysalises, larvae. The exhibition aims to draw the visitor's attention to the fact that not only Bombyx mori is able to produce silk, but also other species of Lepidoptera.

In the collection there are specimens of other animals, not insects, able to supply textile fibers: this is the case of the mollusc, a manufacturer of fine linseed (Pinna nobilis), whose shell can be seen in the windows among its silky filaments, and the Arachnidi producers of silk.

The collection of Ascoli Piceno, of modest size compared to that of Padua, documents most of the studies carried out in the Bacical Institute of Portici from 1916 to 1920 and those made in Ascoli from 1920 to 1958. It is housed in a room on the second plan of the Institute to complete and integrate the Padua collection in the description of the evolution of the Italian bachisericola activity. It refers to detailed studies concerning the selection of old Italian and exotic breeds; to newly created breeds (for crossing and selection of new characters appeared); at intersections practiced for the improvement of silk.

The collections housed in the headquarters of the Specialized Section for Bachiculture in Padua are very useful to reconstruct the history of sericulture and to describe the scientific progress obtained in the field of knowledge of silkworm genetics.

They also testify to the assiduous activity of the researchers employed at the old Bacological Stations, who devoted themselves to the study of the silkworm, with real love.

However the inestimable heritage of the Section is constituted living collection of about 120 different breeds, of Bombyx mori worm and about 50 varieties of mulberry Morus alba and nigra silkworm breeds are bred annually for breeding and conservation, while plants of mulberry are given all the cultivation cures to keep them in optimal conditions of vegetation.

This material is the true heritage to be defended and transmitted: nothing, in fact, better than the silkworm and the mulberry plants, preserves the history of its evolution in the genetic memory.

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