It is almost impossible to come across colorful butterflies in a city surrounded by concrete tall buildings. However, there is a secret farm where one can observe the colorful and delicate members of nature. Founded by chemistry teacher Çiğdem Ünlü, the butterfly farm in the Zerzevatçı village in Istanbul's Beykoz district hosts 450 butterflies and attracts about 500 people a week.
Visitors coming to the farm are first told "the story of the butterfly" with a 20-minute demonstration.
With this film, they acquire knowledge on various facts about butterflies such as their biological structure, life cycle and camouflage secrets.
After the screening, a trip to the greenhouse where the tropical species live begins. Colorful butterflies fly on every corner of the air-conditioned greenhouse equipped with their favorite tropical plants.
Here, each phase of the life cycle of a butterfly can be witnessed live. It is possible to observe all four stages of their life; namely the egg, larva, pupa and adult. You can see that the butterflies you discovered among the leaves eat on small sofas donated with oranges, kiwis and bananas.
There are only tropical species from South American and Asian countries in the farm.
The ''Owl Butterfly'' draws the most attention among the species in the greenhouse. This butterfly, which is known for the eye-spots on its wings, survives longer by protecting itself from predators with this feature.
Ünlü, the founder of the farm, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that she is pleased to bring such a place, which was specially designed and could be regarded as a paradise for butterflies, into the country.
Stating that the farm was established on a green and spacious field, Ünlü said, "In the farm, it is an exciting experience to dive into the colorful, rare and naive members of nature, let them land on you and navigate through them."
Ünlü said that an average of 1,500 people visit the butterfly farm from Istanbul and other provinces in the spring.
Pointing out that there are 460 species of butterflies in Turkey and 200,000 species in the world along with moths, Ünlü said, "We are the richest in Europe. The Sultan butterfly living in the Adana region is a migratory species. They emigrate about 3,000 kilometers [1,864 miles] and come back, but the chemical drugs used in agriculture and stubble burnt by the villagers bring down their numbers rapidly."
Ünlü stressed that their purpose is to draw attention to the functions of the butterflies in the wild.
Noting that she also educates students visiting the farm about butterflies, Ünlü said, "Butterflies are very important for pollination in nature. They cause pollination like bees, meaning that they help plants reproduce and multiply. The disappearance of pollution means the end of life. We must protect these beautiful creatures for our nature and future."
Ünlü said the lifetime of a butterfly is not only one day contrary to general belief, and that there are species on the farm that live between two weeks and three months.
Explaining that the world's longest-lived butterfly lives close to a year, Ünlü said that larva is constantly brought from abroad to always keep the farm alive and each one is taken to the butterfly garden as an adult. Informing that the pupa phase is different for each butterfly, Ünlü noted that while some stay three weeks, three months or even 5-6 months in the pupa, some go into hibernation in winter.
"The wingspan of the Atlas Moth, known as the world's largest butterfly, can reach 30 centimeters. You can see its pupa and butterfly on the farm. The smallest butterfly is the Western Pygmy Blue, which has a wingspan of only 12 millimeters," Ünlü said.
Ünlü pointed out that the Orange Oakleaf looks like a dry leaf when it lands on a branch in order to reproduce and multiply by protecting itself from predators, stressing that butterflies have interesting ways to protect themselves from predators in the wild such as birds, reptiles and insects, but that they are almost extinct because they cannot protect themselves from humans.
"The number of butterflies is decreasing because of the chemical drugs used in agriculture, climate changes and the fact that by destroying the natural plant cover, we erect concrete buildings instead," Ünlü said. "You can also invite butterflies to your surroundings by keeping their favorite plants in your garden or your balcony. For example, butterfly bush, lantana, or camellia. It is possible to see the mysterious world of tropical butterflies in the Butterfly Farm and spend a day in nature during nine months of the year."