‘Sensational Butterflies’ is the Natural History Museum’s exhibition which has bought together hundreds of tropical butterflies and moths from six continents, including Africa, South America and South East Asia, and situated them in one butterfly house for all to see. Luke Brown, manager of the butterfly house, was pleased with the diversity of butterflies that had flown in from all over the globe and hoped that it would give people a chance not only to immerse themselves in butterflies but, also, learn more about the butterfly’s way of life.
Since the butterfly house is home to tropical butterflies from the Blue morpho, from Central and South America, to the Swallowtail, from the Americas, the actual environment is humid – so, it is advised to take off jackets before entering. It is intensely colourful, filled with a variety of delicate flora and green plants, some of which can only be found in the tropics.
The first sign at the entrance has the following rules: ‘If they land on you, don’t panic’ and ‘Please don’t step on them’ which is, perhaps, aimed at children who haven’t laid eyes on butterflies yet; some children may be more afraid of them (than willing to step on them) so be wary of random screaming. However, to adults alike, these creatures are quite picture-perfect, landing on your arm (as one landed on mine) and nonchalantly fluttering away in front of you.
The exhibition educates and provides information on the four life stages of a butterfly: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and fully developed butterfly; the life cycle can range from a few weeks to an entire year of hibernation for some chrysalis. One of the fascinating parts of the butterfly house is the hatchery window that inhabits rows and rows of live pupae, which were hand glued to the hatchery from scratch. Viewers can see a various stages of metamorphosis taking place and may be lucky enough to see a newly created butterfly tear itself out of it’s translucent chrysalis shell.
There are many interesting facts to pick up as you walk along the paths of the butterfly house. For example, did you know that caterpillars had 4000 muscles in their body? Or, that some caterpillars, such as Glasswing, ate certain poisonous and unappetising plants, including heliptrope leaves, in order to scare off predators?
Those interested in knowing more should keep an eye out for Owl butterflies drinking sugary liquids from oranges, butterflies mating and caterpillar eggs hidden underneath the dense foliage. Another interesting fact is that butterflies have five senses, just like humans, and they drum their feet on leaves to taste whether or not it’s a suitable place to lay their eggs. Children have easy-to-read explanations of the butterfly’s life stages and can interact by collecting butterfly stamps as they progress in the path.
There are other butterfly exhibitions provided such as, ‘A Night in the Jungle’ and the museum has set activities for school visits. Yet the butterfly house can also be a great option first dates.
Butterfly house exhibition is open until 26th September
Please visit the NHM website for more information: