Butterflies that flutter by you, and even land on you, are a hit already at the 2012 New York State Fair.
Sky River Butterflies, based in California, goes to fairs and other outreach projects to spread awareness about butterflies.
"Right now what you're seeing is the top two pollinating groups in this country are in serious trouble," says exhibit coordinator John Dailey. "That's the bees and the butterflies, they're in steep decline."
One concern is that more pesticides on cropland destroy the insects' habitat.
People who come into the exhibit can just watch the Monarchs, or pickup nectar-soaked sticks (they look like Q-tips) to attract the insects to their hands. The butterflies are also attracted to hats and clothes. Dailey says neon green is especially appealing.
The over 500 insects are also on potted and hanging plants such as lantana, impatiens, cone flowers, and other native plants. As visitors leave, they are checked to make sure there are no 'hitch hikers' going through the protective doors. Some monarchs are 'wobbly,' almost drunk on all the nectar, so they are set on walls, and then put in a net 'barrel' to recover.
Dailey says all the monarchs come from farms in Georgia or Florida. After the fair, they will be released. He's also exploring letting people take them home for their gardens.
Besides the line waiting to get in, another sign of the exhibit's success are the comments as people come out. Mothers holding children say they're amazed at how much it teaches them. One woman says she never knew that butterflies 'taste' with their feet.
For their efforts at raising awareness of butterfly decline, we give Sky River butterflies our first Blue Ribbon of the State Fair.