A visit to a butterfly garden offers the opportunity to observe these fascinating insects close up. Although the concept of the butterfly house is relatively new in the United States, there are now a number of facilities open to the public, in all parts of the country. In addition to butterflies, butterfly gardens also feature the insects' nectar plants (for feeding) and host plants (for egg laying). Whether the butterflies are located inside or outside, visitors are asked not to touch them to avoid damaging their delicate wings. Inside enclosures are equipped with special vestibules to prevent the escape of butterflies; visitors are reminded to check their clothing for “hitchhikers” before they exit.
Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center, Georgia
Located within the 13,000-acre resort property of Callaway Gardens, the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center itself covers 4 1/2 acres. An enclosed tropical conservatory contains approximately 1,000 butterflies in a simulated rain forest environment which includes a 12-foot waterfall. Outside the center, native butterflies are attracted to plantings of nectar-rich flowers and shrubs. Callaway Gardens is located in Pine Mountain, Georgia.
Butterfly World, Florida
Butterfly enthusiast Ronald Boender opened Butterfly World, the first butterfly house in the United States, in 1988. Located in Coconut Creek, Florida, Butterfly World is primarily an outdoor park. Some 10,000 live butterflies are kept on display; over 150 species can be seen over a period of a year. The facility's Lab Encounter room offers visitors a close-up view of eggs and larvae in all stages of growth. The park is also home to the country’s largest free-flight hummingbird aviary.
Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden, Michigan
Hundreds of butterflies from Central and South America can be viewed in a special enclosure inside the Detroit Zoo. Because the northern climate prevents the support of a huge number of butterflies, and because regulations prohibit the raising of non-native caterpillars, only nectar plants (and not host plants for laying eggs) are kept in the enclosure. Each week the zoo receives 200 to 300 chrysalises of up to 40 different species from tropical butterfly farms.
Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing, Iowa
Reiman Gardens, on the grounds of Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, is home to the Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing, a 2,500-square-foot indoor garden. The building itself is designed to look like a butterfly in flight. Visitors can see native and exotic butterflies from six different continents and watch butterflies emerge from their chrysalises in the Insect Rearing and Receiving Room.
Butterfly Rainforest, Florida
Part of the Florida Museum of Natural History, the Butterfly Rainforest is located on the campus of the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. This four-story structure is screened to the outdoors and contains waterfalls, a walking trail, many tropical plants and hundreds of butterflies. It also houses the world’s largest butterfly research center. Live butterfly releases are scheduled on the weekends.