Live Butterflies Return to Enchant Visitors at the American Museum of Natural History main content.

Live Butterflies Return to Enchant Visitors at the American Museum of Natural History

In the Museum’s Butterfly Conservatory, children holding magnifying glasses peer at a butterfly perched on a piece of orange held by a human hand.
Children visit The Butterfly Conservatory at the American Museum of Natural History.
©AMNH/R. Mickens


The Butterfly Conservatory: Tropical Butterflies Alive in Winter, an annual favorite visited by millions of children and adults, returns to the American Museum of Natural History on Saturday, September 5. Celebrating its 18th year at the Museum, this popular attraction transforms the coolest day into a summer escape, inviting visitors to mingle with up to 500 fluttering, iridescent butterflies among blooming tropical flowers and lush green vegetation in 80-degree temperatures. The Butterfly Conservatory will be on view through May 29, 2016.

The Butterfly Conservatory is ajoyful, enchanting, and educational exhibition for both children and adults, and truly transports visitors out of their everyday lives into a magical setting teeming with color and flourishing life,” said Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History. “Butterflies are also important harbingers of environmental change, and so this exhibition offers not just a unique and fascinating experience, but also an opportunity to learn about the roles butterflies play in ecosystems and why it is so critical that we protect them.”


The Butterfly Conservatory

            Inside a 1,200-square-foot vivarium, a freestanding transparent structure aflutter with activity, visitors interact with butterflies as they stroll along a winding pathway surrounded by tropical plants and vibrant blossoms including Pentas and Ixora. Powerful halide lamps shine down from the ceiling, simulating the sunlight that streams through a rain forest. In the vivarium, monarchs, zebra longwings, paper kites, and other butterfly species flutter among people and plants.

The conservatory’s butterflies come from farms in Florida, Costa Rica, Kenya, Thailand, Malaysia, Ecuador, and Australia.Featured species include iridescent blue morpho butterflies, striking scarlet swallowtails, large owl butterflies, and beautiful green birdwings. Because the average life span of many butterflies is only two to three weeks, roughly 500 butterfly pupae will be shipped to the Museum weekly for the duration of the exhibit, and the butterflies will be released into the vivarium after emerging. Other pupae hang in a case in the vivarium, giving visitors a firsthand look as adult butterflies emerge from chrysalises and fly away only hours after adjusting to their new surroundings. Video screens outside the vivarium will also display a short film about this process.

Colorful educational displays outside the vivarium explain the life cycle of butterflies, the worldwide efforts to protect their diverse habitats, and the variety of butterfly species in New York State. Visitors can learn about interesting adaptations, from the colored scales that form butterfly wings’ intricate designs to the intriguing relationships between butterflies and other animal species—monarchs, for example, are toxic to birds.). Other panels explain how scientists rely on wild butterflies to gauge the health of an ecosystem and how the Museum’s butterfly specimens offer a wealth of information to butterfly and moth researchers around the world.



            The Butterfly Conservatory is curated by David Grimaldi, curator in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology. The design director is David Harvey, senior vice president for exhibition.


The Butterfly Conservatory is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York (


Another note about butterflies at the Museum:


The Butterflies of North America: Titian Peale’s Lost Manuscript

With a never-before-published manuscript, illustrated with plates, prepared more than 100 years ago, The Butterflies of North America: Titian Peale’s Lost Manuscript reveals a lost masterpiece of natural history from the American Museum of Natural History’s Rare Book Collection. Brimming with original vibrant color plates of numerous butterflies by celebrated American artist and naturalist Titian Ramsay Peale II (1799–1885), the new book includes a foreword by Museum President Ellen V. Futter and text by Professor Kenneth Haltman and Museum Curator David A. Grimaldi that describes the art and science this talented artist brought to his extraordinary work. (Abrams; September 1, 2015; U.S. $40; hardcover).


At the American Museum of Natural History

For more information on other exhibitions and programs at the American Museum of Natural History go to



The Museum is open daily, 10 am–5:45 pm. The Museum is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.



Museum admission is free to all New York City school and camp groups.

Suggested general admission, which supports the Museum’s scientific and educational endeavors and offers access to the Museum’s 45 halls including the Rose Center for Earth and Space, is $22 (adults) suggested, $17 (students/seniors) suggested, $12.50 (children) suggested. All prices are subject to change.


The Museum offers discounted combination ticket prices that include suggested general admission plus special exhibitions, 2D and 3D giant-screen films, and Space Shows.


  • Museum Plus One includes one special exhibition, 2D or 3D giant-screen film, or Space Show: $27 (adults), $22 (students/seniors), $16 (children)


  • Museum Supersaver includes all special exhibitions, 2D or 3D giant-screen film, and Space Show: $35 (adults), $28 (students/seniors), $22 (children)


Visitors who wish to pay less than the suggested Museum admission and also purchase a ticket to attend a special exhibition, 2D or 3D giant-screen film, or Space Show may do so on-site at the Museum. To the amount they wish to pay for general admission, they add $25 (adults), $20.50 (students/seniors), or $13.50 (children) for a Space Show, special exhibition, or 2D or 3D giant-screen film.


Public Information

For additional information, the public may call 212-769-5100 or visit the Museum’s website at



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