Butterfly World is the result of one man’s hobby gone wild.
Born of Dutch immigrants, Ronald Boender grew up in Illinois and had always had a fascination with butterflies, beginning with the cabbage whites, black swallowtails and silk moths he found while growing up on his father’s farm.
He moved to Florida in 1968, and after retiring from a successful career as an electrical engineer, he decided to actively pursue his interest in butterflies, beginning by raising local butterflies and butterfly food plants in small numbers at his home.
When he learned there was a market for “farmed” butterflies for sale to Universities and Zoos, Boender established MetaScience Co., a commercial butterfly farm, in 1984. The staff at MetaScience produced up to 1000 butterfly pupa per week, and established methods of butterfly rearing that are still in use at Butterfly World.
During this time, Boender also learned of attractions called “butterfly houses” springing up overseas, particularly in the United Kingdom. Intrigued by the possibilities, He went to England in 1985, and met Clive Farrell, founder and owner of the London Butterfly House. They became friends, and soon partners in the venture that became Butterfly World, the first butterfly house in the United States, and the largest in the world.
Opening day was March 28, 1988, with Butterfly World encompassing 3 acres of butterfly aviaries, botanical gardens and the working butterfly farm and research center that Boender had worked years to establish. In the years that have followed, the park has expanded to include the 2 additional aviaries for a rainbow of birds and hummingbirds, an interactive lorikeet encounter, as well as a skilled aviculture care and research staff to support these endeavors.
Besides the park itself, Boender and Butterfly World also established the North American “Bring Back the Butterflies” Campaign, in 1988. The goal of this program was to educate and supply FREE butterfly gardening materials specific to each region, to anyone interested. Wildly successful, it has become a phenomenon, resulting in thousands of new butterfly habitats, and an increase in butterfly populations across the continent.
Boender has also been vigilant in his support of off-site research, using Butterfly World profits and expertise to create the Boender Endangered Species Laboratory at the University of Florida. Working in conjunction with scientists there, Butterfly World has been instrumental in saving the endangered Schaus Swallowtail, a species of butterfly that is becoming reestablished in South Florida, and may, one day soon, be taken off of the endangered species list.