Inside Iowa State

Inside Archives

Submit news

Send news for Inside to, or call (515) 294-7065. See publication dates, deadlines.

About Inside

Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Oct. 5, 2007

Butterfly house seasonal closing reflects budget woes at garden

by Anne Krapfl and Teddi Barron

When Reiman Gardens moves to its winter hours of operation Nov. 1, more than weekend hours will disappear. So will the butterflies. The gardens will be closed on Saturdays and Sundays, and the Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing will be closed until April 1.

Weekday hours during the winter will be 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Reduced winter admission will be $3 for adults and $1 for children to age 17 (regular rates are $7 and $3). CoHorts and ISU students are admitted free of charge. The facilities will continue to be available seven days a week to rent for private programs and events.

Gardens director Teresa McLaughlin said she had to cut $200,000 from the FY08 budget to balance expenses with anticipated revenues. Among the cuts are two full-time P&S positions (communications and education coordinators), two merit positions that will be reduced to half time, much of the external marketing budget and about four and a half months of butterfly chrysalis shipments. A single butterfly chrysalis costs an average of $2.65, and there are about 800 live butterflies at Reiman Gardens on a given day, she said.

"We have created a multi-year plan that requires us to use our resources wisely," McLaughlin said. "Attendance patterns show that we have fewer visitors in winter, so it makes sense for us to conserve resources and close on weekends during that time."

The revised $1.6 million budget this year will rely on about $660,000 in university support, $255,000 in earnings from several endowed funds and $685,000 worth of one-time gifts and grants, as well as memberships, admission fees, catering and rental income, and gift shop sales.

"We don't receive student fees, we don't have alumni, and city attractions don't directly receive the Ames hotel/motel tax proceeds," McLaughlin said. "It's difficult for the culture arts - museums, theater, performance arts, music and the gardens to operate, yet I do think people appreciate these amenities that make Ames such a great community.

"Some people have suggested we reduce our admission to $3, which is what it used to be," she said. "That's about the cost of one butterfly. Even then, how could we replace more than $225,000 expected from membership and attendance? That would require attendance we didn't have even in our first years. We've seen our attendance stay the same, whether people pay $3 or $7."

McLaughlin will give two public presentations on future support and gardens operations next week in the auditorium of the conservatory complex. The first begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, and the second at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10.

Following is an excerpt from a Q&A with McLaughlin. The full Q&A is online.

Why will the butterfly wing be closed in the winter this year?

Reiman Gardens has to make $200,000 in cuts this year to balance its budget. Revenue from membership and attendance has stabilized, but slipped greatly from the first years the conservatory complex opened - as is normal for most facilities when they open a new feature. Additionally, the expenses for utilities, maintenance and repairs (23 percent of the budget) have crippled our ability to fund flowers and butterfly displays.

What does it cost to operate the butterfly wing on an annual basis?

It costs approximately $250,000 a year. This includes one full-time entomologist, two part-time lab staff, two trained volunteers/staff to interpret and keep butterflies within the exhibit (as required by USDA), one part-time horticulturist to water and care for plants, a continual rotation of nectar plants, a half-time volunteer coordinator to schedule 50 volunteers weekly, paid staff to fill in when volunteers cannot be found, utilities and an effective Integrated Pest Management program (we never use chemicals in the glass houses). For this fiscal year, we have $115,000 for this attraction. We will try to stretch that over seven months.

Will the butterflies remain in the wing or will it be closed entirely and the butterflies removed?

Since butterflies live on average about two weeks in the adult stage, these butterflies will fly until they are gone. New butterfly chrysalis shipments will stop at the end of October. We will begin receiving shipments again in mid-March and re-open the wing on April 1, 2008.

How many people visit the gardens annually?

Approximately 100,000 people visit Reiman Gardens each year.


"We have created a multi-year plan that requires us to use our resources wisely. Attendance patterns show that we have fewer visitors in winter, so it makes sense for us to conserve resources and close on weekends during that time."

Teresa McLaughlin, director