Butterflies of the world alive in London

Press release - 08 April 2010

Butterfly Explorers at the Natural History Museum
8 April – 26 September 2010

As the Easter holidays arrive, the Natural History Museum invites visitors on an expedition across four continents as a spectacular butterfly house takes over its front lawn. Butterfly Explorers is a new family exhibition featuring hundreds of butterflies from across the world. It runs from 8 April to 26 September 2010 and tickets can be booked now at www.nhm.ac.uk

Inside the butterfly house, visitors will experience the wildly varied environments butterflies live in throughout North America, Africa and Asia as well as the heart of the Amazon rainforest in South America, where there are more butterfly species than anywhere else on Earth. Visitors will travel through the exhibition, moving from continent to continent, spotting and identifying butterflies as they go, collecting passport stamps and learning how butterflies live in many different parts of the world.

A real highlight is that visitors can peer into the warm hatchery room, which gives a privileged, close-up look at the butterfly life cycle from pupa to butterfly, a rare opportunity to see tropical butterflies emerging from their chrysalises.

Outside the main butterfly house is a garden devoted to some of the 58 butterfly species that live in the UK and offering many useful tips for attracting these butterflies to visitors’ own gardens. Butterfly Explorers features interactive activities throughout and an outdoor play area for young children. While the exhibition can be enjoyed by all ages, it is particularly suitable for families with children aged 5–11.

While following the success of the Museum’s butterfly exhibitions in 2008 and 2009, Butterfly Explorers features a wider geographical spread of butterflies than has ever before been seen at the Museum. Among the butterfly species are the common mormon (Papilio polytes), blue morpho (Morpho peleides) and monarch (Danaus plexippus).

Visitors will learn how some species reflect the state of our environment’s health and how butterflies around the world have adapted to their habitats. The exhibition also features many examples of the wonders and peculiarities of butterfly behaviour, such as:

  • charaxes butterflies fly so fast and are so powerful that it is possible to hear them crashing into each other during mid-air duels
  • glasswings drink poisonous sap from heliotrope leaves, which they store in their bodies to make themselves taste unpleasant to potential predators
  • monarch butterflies are long-distance travellers, flying across America to Mexico every autumn
  • the woolly bear caterpillar lives in the Arctic and spends most of the year frozen solid at temperatures of -50˚C or below

The exhibition also highlights some concerns for the future of butterfly species. For example, in North America, butterflies feast on the wild flowers of prairie grasslands, but this biodiverse habitat has been largely destroyed by farms growing a single crop. Similarly, Asia is home to many of the most spectacular butterfly species, but deforestation to support the growing human population is threatening its wildlife. But conservation programmes can achieve remarkable results. In the UK, the large blue has been brought back from extinction and we now have the largest population in Europe.

Visitor information

Dates and times: 8 April – 26 September 2010, 10.00–17.50
(last admission 17.15)
Visitor enquiries: 020 7942 5000
Admission: adult Gift Aid admission £6*, child and concession Gift Aid admission £4*, family Gift Aid admission £17* (up to two adults and three children), free to Members, Patrons and children aged three and under
Nearest tube: South Kensington
Website: www.nhm.ac.uk/butterfly-explorers

Ends

Notes for editors

  • Butterfly Explorers is part of the worldwide celebrations of 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity. The diversity of life on Earth is crucial for human well being and now is the time to act to preserve it. For information on events, initiatives and exhibitions across the UK, visit www.biodiversityislife.net
  • *If you are a UK taxpayer, paying the Gift Aid admission ticket price allows the Natural History Museum to reclaim the tax on the whole ticket price you pay. For every £100 worth of tickets sold, we can claim an extra £28 from the government. This means you can further support the work of the Museum. The standard admission charges are: adult £5.40, child and concession £3.50, and family £15. The right of entry is the same for visitors with or without the voluntary donation.
  • The Natural History Museum is one of the UK’s leading visitor attractions, but is also a world-leading science research centre. Through its collections and scientific expertise, the Museum is helping to conserve the extraordinary richness and diversity of the natural world with groundbreaking projects in 68 countries.