The Butterfly Pavilion, one of the Natural History Museum’s most popular exhibits each year, is finally opening to the public. The opening was delayed because of the unhealthy air quality.
The outdoor exhibit lets visitors get up close and personal with 30 different species of butterflies. Spectrum News 1 anchor Lisa McRee recently visited the exhibit to better understand how this beautiful scene comes together every year.
The Butterfly Pavilion first opened its doors in 1999. Now, during this difficult time due to the coronavirus pandemic, this exhibit can provide calm and inspiration for its guests.
"Being able to open our space to allow families and people to just see the butterflies see the flowers, and all the critters in the garden feels a little normal, in a time where so much isn’t feeling normal. So we really wanted to be able to welcome people back,” said Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, president and director of the Natural History Museum.
One of the things that is so fascinating to many visitors is how the butterflies are brought into the habitat.
“We have to go through a pretty involved process of creating the structure that complies with the United States Agricultural permit regulations. Then we get the permits for certain species to import butterflies into California from butterfly farmers. We get the butterflies in and we have emergence chambers back in the museum, in our laboratory. We then emerge the butterflies and then we release them into the habitat for their first flights,” said Forest Urban, manager of invertebrate living collections.
Butterflies are a huge part of the ecosystem and provide environmental benefits, including natural pest control.
“They are part of the ecosystem from every stage of their lives—from the egg, larvae, pupa, to adult—is a food source for somebody else like for a bird, lizard, and they are important pollinators. So they are crucial to the native world,” said Urban.
Because of things like climate change and development, it seems like we are seeing fewer butterflies in the wild. However, that can be changed by planting certain things that attract butterflies.
“You have to plant a combination of nectar plants for the adult butterflies and hose plants, which is what caterpillars will grow up eating. Butterflies are particularly attracted to things in the far end of the spectrum. So they love purples and blues, but they don’t really like yellows and reds that much. The key is that butterflies see a different part of the spectrum. If you had the butterfly eyes, you wouldn’t see the yellow. Inside of that yellow is the purple bullseye that we don’t see,” added Urban.
The Butterfly Pavilion is open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays only. it will be open to the general public starting Friday, September 18, and will remain open through October 11. For reservations and updates on the exhibit visit nhm.org.