September 29th, 2016

Stratford Butterfly Farm Celebrates 30th Birthday

Updated: 11:53 am, Jul 27, 2015

IT is home to residents from all corners of the world and it welcomes visitors from all corners of the world.

And on Friday July 24 Stratford Butterfly Farm will celebrate its 30th birthday.

Back in 1985 hirsute environmentalist David Bellamy opened the doors for the first time, and the Swan’s Nest Lane attraction now welcomes 100,000 visitors a year.

The farm was the idea of owners Gareth Ireland and Clive Farrell, who wanted to educate children and adults alike about conservation – butterflies in particular.

Conservationist and educator Mr Farrell, who owned a number of such farms, is still owner and is actively involved while Mr Ireland is now retired.

And the educating ethos remains the guiding principle even if the farm has seen many changes over the past three decades.

The butterflies have now been joined by some feathered friends – parakeets, cockatiels, and quails among them – together with some less friendly – in appearance anyway – of eight-legged residents including a Goliath Bird Eating Spider with a 30cm leg span, the Huntsman Spider of I’m A Celebrity… fame, and the infamous False Widow Spider among others.

A more recent addition is the snake tank which houses a few slippery tenants including a Royal Python, a Corn Snake and a vast array of creepy-crawlies.

Recently, some Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches managed to escape and have been hiding out in the flight room – where the butterflies fly freely around visitors.

Visitors need not worry though as the cockroaches are harmless and only the most eagle-eyed are likely to even spot them, although they may hear them.

Three iguanas live happily among the birds and butterflies – Prudence, Princess and Stumpy – the latter earning his name after one of his lady friends bit the end of his tail.

There used to be a thriving Leaf Cutter ant colony that could be seen marching along ropes hanging from the roof.

The colony has now diminished following the death of the queen, but keepers are working to introduce a new one – currently made up of 50 ants.

There are also frogs, snails, beetles, and Koi Carp.

While the sight of the spiders and snakes may be expected to produce a scream from the odd visitor, more are heard from the flight room.

Youngsters in particular can be unnerved by the butterflies flying around them.

With school parties when one child screams the others tend to follow suit.

Staff call it the domino effect – rather than the butterfly effect.

Feeding the many residents is not hugely expensive as none have elephant-sized appetites.

The town’s Waitrose store helps out by supplying past its best fruit, which is perfect for the butterflies and many of the other insects and reptiles.

Sometimes supermarkets even supply new residents.

The odd stowaway who might have sneaked into a box of bananas or a punnet of grapes has been known to find a new home at the farm.

The farm also has a successful breeding programme and supplies pupae to butterfly houses across Europe.

Over the years the farm has appeared on popular TV shows including Blue Pete, and crews have comes from all over the world to film the likes of the Goliath birdeater.

Stratford Butterfly Farm continues to provide an entertaining day out – but also an educational one.

Visit www.butterflyfarm.co.uk for further details.

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