The Butterfly Effect


Lorenzo Zayas has made the life cycle of butterflies his life’s work.



 

Lorenzo Zayas
Butterflies seem to be drawn to Lorenzo Zayas,
who has made the colorful little creatures his
life's work 

It’s a Saturday morning at the Winter Park Farmers Market and vendors’ tables are overflowing with finished masterpieces from the garden—juicy peaches, bright yellow squash, huge beefsteak tomatoes.

Over at the Butterfly Man’s table, though, nature is still hard at work—a gorgeous black swallowtail is coming to life inside a plastic terrarium.

“Chrysalis, not cocoon,” the Butterfly Man gently corrects someone watching the former ugly caterpillar emerge from its papery confines.

The show will go on all morning, and Lorenzo Zayas will introduce every arrival like a proud father. This is his life’s work, after all—to spark inspiration and foster transformation through education.

Since 1993, the Cuban-born entomologist has made a career of selling home butterfly-rearing kits—consisting of enclosure, food plants, caterpillars or pupae, and instructions. His interest in the insects began in his grandmother’s garden when he was a boy. Today he is often invited to local schools to share his knowledge and enthusiasm about a life cycle like no other.

“I love to see that sparkle in the kids’ eyes when I give them a caterpillar to hold for the first time,” says the Orlando resident. “They enjoy it so much, their faces light up—that is so rewarding to me.” 

Lisa Paton, a teacher from Audubon Park Elementary, is a frequent customer of Zayas’. On this Saturday she is buying a refill for her classroom kit. “They have a lot of fun coming into the room every day and checking on their caterpillars,’’ she says of her first-graders. “They watch them change, learn about their cycle, then the kids set them free.”

Zayas, 62, has spent more than 20 years lecturing on the benefits that caterpillars can bring to a garden as mature, pollinating butterflies. At first, “I would get the looks. They thought I was strange. Most people were using pesticides to get rid of the caterpillars.” Today he experiences the rewards of his life’s labor when people ask him how to nurture caterpillars.

Zayas also provides butterflies for weddings, funerals and other special occasions through his business, Nature’s Way Butterfly Gardens. Whatever their role, the creatures are short-timers—butterflies generally survive only a few weeks. But somehow, through their collective lives, they have perfected the ability to touch ours.

The Butterfly Man tries to explain. “Studying them, watching them change, has made me a better person,’’ he says as three winged beauties cling to the front of his shirt.

“I am more patient. I appreciate people and their differences. I appreciate life so much more now.’’

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