Edinburgh Butterfly & Insect World: Can't we save it from closure like we saved Gorgie City Farm? – Susan Morrison

Every mum in Edinburgh has a tale to tell of their offspring ingesting some fluttering lovely being at Butterfly World, don’t they? Oh, just me? I thought it happened to everyone.

Edinburgh Butterfly & Insect World will not re-open following closure during the Covid pandemic (Picture: Cate Gillon)
Edinburgh Butterfly & Insect World will not re-open following closure during the Covid pandemic (Picture: Cate Gillon)

It was the Girlchild, back in the 90s. On this particular day, she was up on my husband's shoulders wrecking his spine, not mine. As we drifted through the foliage and ooohed and aaahed at the butterflies, I turned to see a shimmering wing sticking out of her mouth.

Clearly something had flown too close to the surprisingly quick hand of a grasping 18-month-old human. Let that be a lesson to you, I thought, as I grimly fought to extricate the ex-butterfly.

Naturally, the Girlchild fought me off like a tigress protecting her kill. No idea why people think it's easy taking candy from a kid. Toddlers can generate a sort of high-pitched scream, like a sonic superpower.

She brought the roof down, which meant that we were being well stared at by all and sundry with the chewed remains of a very dead butterfly in my hands. I desperately hoped it was not an incredibly rare species. Was now, I guessed.

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A decade later and it was the Boy. This time I hoiked something green and slimy out of the back of his throat. Possibly more than four legs? Whatever it had been, it tasted pretty awful and he made his feelings known on the matter.

It may have been that same afternoon when we strolled into the ‘insect’ bit of the “Butterfly and Insect World”, which was never billed “Butterfly, Insect and Arachnid World”. That would have been a warning to people like me to stay clear, but no, I innocently wandered in and saw a crowd of small children and mums watching one of the staff.

Clearly something of educational interest was happening, so, in full-on middle-class Mum mode, I thrust the Girlchild forward to ‘Learn Something’.

I was right behind her when the polo-shirt clad young person turned around and said, and I quote, for the words are seared into my brain, “Would you like to hold the spider? Be careful, it's delicate.”

Delicate, my backside. This, I later discovered, was a Mexican red-kneed tarantula. It was roughly the size of a dinner plate and clearly knew that this was a moment to shine. Talk about showing off. This was the Fred Astaire of the arachnid world, flinging those red knees about like a tipsy Glesca’ grannie’s Gay Gordons at a Hogmanay bash.

It clocked me and started scuttling my way at high speed.

My husband says three things seemed to happen at once. I seemed to simultaneously faint, recover, then literally trample over small children and little old ladies to get clear of the crimson jointed terror. The screaming started once I was out the door.

Despite this, the Butterfly farm was always a great visit, and a good tip to give tourists. Kids learned so much, and not just ‘Don’t Eat Caterpillars’, although that is a good life-lesson. The staff were always friendly and welcoming, well, the ones that didn’t have deranged tango-tastic tarantulas in their hands.

We managed to save Gorgie City Farm. Couldn’t we save the butterflies? Mebbe not the spiders. You know how I feel about them.

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