By Lowell & Kaye Christie, F47246
See a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors while visiting these butterfly havens.
Butterflies are our favorite insects to watch as we explore the outdoors, but when you want to see a number of varieties in a limited amount of time, you might consider visiting a facility that specializes in these showy creatures. The 13 locations included in this column are all enclosed environments where you can wander, watch, and sometimes interact with butterflies. Some also have outside gardens designed specifically to attract butterflies. They let you see the type of local plants that appeal to these pretty pollinators. Most facilities have butterflies from around the world, and many also include native species. (Be sure to check out this month’s “Window On Nature” column for tips on butterfly watching.)
1 Delaware Nature Society Butterfly House, Hockessin, Delaware.
Want to visit a complete ecosystem based on the life cycle of the butterfly? This 18-foot-by-30-foot greenhouse is home to 15 species of butterflies and moths, including great spangled fritillaries, monarchs, swallowtails, painted ladies, and cecropias. Located at the Ashland Nature Center on 81 acres, complete with four self-guided nature trails, the Butterfly House is open from June to September.
2 The Cockrell Butterfly Center, Houston, Texas.
The Houston Museum of Natural Science hosts a butterfly center with approximately 60 of the world’s largest and most colorful butterfly species. Housed in a rain forest setting, these butterflies were raised in various parts of the world on butterfly farms and shipped to the center in their chrysalis form. If your timing is right, you may see one emerge as an adult butterfly.
3 Niagara Garden Trail Butterfly Conservatory, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.
Walk on winding paths surrounded by more than 2,000 tropical butterflies in Canada’s largest indoor butterfly conservatory. The butterflies fly free in a rain forest setting. Stop to visit the emergence area and view butterflies unfolding from their chrysalises. Outside the conservatory is a native butterfly garden.
4 Victoria Butterfly Gardens, Brentwood Bay, British Columbia, Canada.
With approximately 50 species of butterflies from around the world, this facility reveals the entire butterfly life cycle, from eggs to caterpillars that eat 20 times their own weight each day, to free-flying adults that feed from fruit trays and nectar-bearing plants. All of the butterflies come from captive breeding operations in tropical countries.
5 The Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House, Chesterfield, Missouri.
A division of the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Butterfly House is an 8,000-square-foot glass conservatory holding tropical plants and more than 60 species of butterflies. You can watch a 17-minute original film portraying the life cycle of the butterfly, and outside is a butterfly garden where you can learn how to attract butterflies to your home.
6 Magic Wings Butterfly House, Durham, North Carolina.
Maintained at a tropical 80 degrees year-round, the Magic Wings Butterfly House is in a 17,000-square-foot, 30-foot-high enclosure. That space provides plenty of room for butterflies, such as the 6-inch-wide giant owl-eye, to fly gracefully past as you walk the paths. The house contains more than 250 species of tropical plants and hundreds of butterflies to watch.
7 Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens, South Deerfield, Massachusetts.
Imagine an 8,000-square-foot glass conservatory with nearly 4,000 native and tropical butterflies, and a waterfall-fed pond with colorful Japanese koi. The indoor area has butterflies year-round, while outside gardens attract local butterflies in season.
8 The Butterfly Place, Westford, Massachusetts.
The Butterfly Place is a 3,100-square-foot glass atrium containing as many as 500 butterflies of 50 species from around the world. (It also features native New England butterflies whenever possible.) Colorful nectar plants and shrubs line a winding pathway that wanders through the building, and a self-guided tour explains the life cycle of the butterflies. The atrium is kept at a constant 80 degrees.
9 Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center At Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, Georgia.
Tropical plants, a waterfall cascading into a large pool, and a thousand butterflies of 50 different species fill the octagonal conservatory at the Day Butterfly Center. In the multipurpose room, the award-winning film On Wings of Wonder explains the life cycle of the butterfly on two wide-screen monitors. Outside the center, native butterflies are attracted to butterfly gardens.
10 Butterfly Rainforest, Florida Museum Of Natural History, Gainesville, Florida.
The Butterfly Rainforest is a four-story, screened outdoor enclosure with waterfalls, a walking trail, lush subtropical and tropical plants, and 55 to 65 species of free-flying butterflies. Located at the University of Florida, it provides visitors with close-up views of scientists at work in the world’s largest research facility devoted to Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths).
11 Butterfly World, Coconut Creek, Florida.
Most of the butterflies at this facility, listed as the “largest butterfly park in the world,” are bred here, giving visitors the opportunity to examine their entire life cycle. Approximately 5,000 butterflies are on display at all times. Typically, more than 50 different species are on view, and during the course of a year, more than 150 species will be represented.
12 Puelicher Butterfly Wing, Milwaukee Public Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Featuring both native and exotic butterflies, this two-story glass-enclosed garden keeps a constant temperature regardless of the weather outside. You can study these magnificent creatures in a working butterfly laboratory. Surrounding the exhibit is the Wall of Diversity, showcasing more than 1,000 different species of butterflies and moths from the museum collection, and representing a century of research.
13 Foremost’s Butterflies Are Blooming, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Plan ahead. You can’t see this exhibit again until 2009, but it is the largest temporary butterfly exhibit in the United States with more than 6,000 tropical butterflies from Central and South America and Asia on display in the Lena Meijer Conservatory. Each year, from March 1 to April 30, you can mingle with the free-flying butterflies in the 15,000-square-foot building.