Chris Dillenbeck, who owns Chrysalis along with his wife, Lindsay, holds a painted lady butterfly. The butterfly is one of more than 50 that lives in an enclosure inside the downtown store. Dillenbeck is hoping the enclosure will become a featured attraction at the store and might be used for education opportunities for area children.

Photo by John F. Russell

Chris Dillenbeck, who owns Chrysalis along with his wife, Lindsay, holds a painted lady butterfly. The butterfly is one of more than 50 that lives in an enclosure inside the downtown store. Dillenbeck is hoping the enclosure will become a featured attraction at the store and might be used for education opportunities for area children.

Steamboat store Chrysalis pays homage to name with live butterflies

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— Along with shipments of women’s clothing and cosmetics, Chrysalis also gets regular deliveries of caterpillars.

The caterpillars are shipped overnight along with specially formulated food. They are placed in a cup on a bed of food and can eat as much as they’d like before attaching themselves to a piece of filter paper on top of the cup.

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A painted lady butterfly spreads its wings inside the Butterfly enclosure at Chrysalis in downtown Steamboat Springs.

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Chris Dillenbeck, who owns Chrysalis with his wife, Lindsay, stands behind a butterfly enclosure inside the downtown store.

This is the chrysalis stage of a butterfly’s life cycle and the namesake of the downtown store owned by Chris and Lindsay Dillenbeck, who also own F.M. Light & Sons.

The filter papers with chrysalides are placed in the clear enclosure that sits more than 6-feet tall on the sales floor, and eventually, painted lady butterflies will emerge, flex their wings and fly for about a month.

“The store name came first,” Chris Dillenbeck said. The live tribute was an idea that was thrown out after.

“At first, I didn't even know if it was realistic, if it would be a poor environment for butterflies,” he said.

They made a trip to the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster and talked with experts there about the species of butterfly and the environment required.

“I really did quite a bit of research trying to get it right,” Dillenbeck said.

The experts gave advice and their blessing, and Dillenbeck got to work.

“Butterflies are actually pretty regulated,” Dillenbeck said. Only butterflies native to the area can be purchased lest unintended consequences arise.

The painted lady species chosen for the store is what’s typically used in school classrooms, he said, and the 3-foot-by-6-foot acrylic cylinder he had specially made in California for the project is quite a bit larger than the small terrariums in which they typically live.

“A lot of other butterflies are more complicated,” Dillenbeck said. “It’s a pretty hardy butterfly.”

A monarch butterfly requires live milkweed before its chrysalis stage, he said, and there are more regional subspecies.

“Our caterpillars don’t need a live plant,” Dillenbeck said, and they only need sugar water after their metamorphosis.

More complicated than the care for the butterflies was the construction of the custom enclosure.

“Before I started, I talked about what I had envisioned,” he said. “It’s pretty difficult. It’s not something you go out and buy.”

In addition to a specially made acrylic tube, Dillenbeck also had local companies do metal work for the base, and there’s wood framing on the inside. A piece of fabric on the top allows airflow through the enclosure.

“I just tried to think what was best for the butterflies,” he said.

There have been a couple of people who have expressed distaste with the enclosure, but Dillenbeck said he thinks that stems from a misunderstanding of what the butterflies need to survive.

Overall, the reaction from customers has been good, he said, and it can be educational for children.

“I wrote up a little description of the butterflies and put that plaque on the enclosure,” Dillenbeck said.

The employees also enjoy the butterflies, he said.

“We always welcome more questions.”

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com

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