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Yesterday, we welcomed the first young visitors to a special media preview of our Sensational Butterflies exhibition, opening officially next week on Tuesday 12 April. Select images to enlarge them



Children from the east London Nightingale Primary School (above) got the exclusive chance to enjoy 100s of gorgeous live butterflies getting settled in their newly-decorated butterfly house, which has been magically built and fully foliaged in 5 weeks. Some of the flying beauties even settled on the children, much to their delight, as you can see here. (Actually in the exhibition you're not really supposed to touch the butterflies, but sometimes it's hard to avoid being landed on.)


The first batch of about 600 butterflies was released into the house last week and around 1,200 pupae were put in the hatcheries. Today, butterfly house manager Luke Brown tells me: 'There are now about 1,500 butterflies inside. And more will arrive each week throughout the summer. It was a great day for the media event, warm and sunny, and the house is looking fab. The butterflies love it when it's hot and the sun shines outside the house. It makes them much more active inside.'


There are 30 butterfly and moth species in the exhibition, but this may increase through the summer months depending on what deliveries we get.


Find out about the Sensational Butterflies exhibition


Read the blog about some of the new features in the butterfly house this year


Read the latest news about the butterfly exhibition


Luke Brown, the butterfly house manager, releases the first wave of beautiful butterflies in the house this year

As i've mentioned previously my project is focusing on investigating the relationships between invertebrates and different approaches to managing wildlife gardens. I will be specifically focusing on bees, wasps and flies - but using them as a representative of a host of invertebrates.


The hypothesis is that the diversity and abundance of bees, wasps and flies would be greater in a garden intensively planted with nectar rich flowers (The Bufferfly Explorers wildlife garden) than in a garden left to colonise naturally with wild flowers (The Natural History Museum wildlife garden).


The sucess of my project will be judged on the reliabililty of the data I gather, so during my field work I must make sure that I contol as many variables as possible such as the time of day I collect species, the weather I collect species in, the types of areas that I will sample from in both gardens etc - by doing so, I can increase the chances of gathering reliable data.


Today I met with Tate, an interpretation developer at NHM who designed the 'Butterfly Explorer's' wildlife garden and discussed with her how she developed the design of the exhibition, focusing on her ideas when creating the UK wildlife garden. She said that my research may be valuable in informing the design for next year's exhibition, as well as showing the positive impact that the UK wildlife garden is having in increasing biodiversity - which we especially want the public to be aware of, as 2010 has been appointed by the UN as the international year of biodiversity!


Find out what's on in the Museum's Wildlife Garden


Visit the Butterfly Explorers exhibition


Find out more about the International Year of Biodiversity


This Sunday, 27 June, at the Museum we have some real treats for butterfly lovers and insect fans, to mark the final day of National Insect Week.


Our brilliant butterfly expert, Blanca Huertas, will be giving 2 free talks in the Attenborough Studio about what it's like to be a butterfly explorer.


At our Meet a Butterfly Explorer talks (12.30 and 14.30), Blanca will recap her adventures in Colombia's deepest jungles, tracking down new species. She'll reveal some of the most thrilling butterflies in the world. It's sad to think that butterflies are in decline, but Blanca will also talk about the encouraging things being done for their conservation.


Claudina butterfly, Agrias claudina, one of the world's most beautiful butterflies, is Sunday's Species of the day


Another treat outside on the front lawn, is the experience of 100s of live butterflies fluttering around you at our Butterfly Explorers exhibition. Look out for the pretty African Plain Tiger butterflies that have been populating the butterfly house madly in the last week. The exhibition's outdoor garden is looking especially lovely thanks to the recent sunshine.


Also on Sunday, we'll be featuring this gorgeous Claudina butterfly (above) as our Species of the day, which is regarded as one of the world's most beautiful butterflies. Follow our online Species of the day


If you're interested in butterflies and insects generally, read our news story about what it takes to Become an entomologist


National Insect Week at the Museum


Find out about the butterfly's life cycle