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Outside the Museum there are now about 700 free-flying tropical butterflies enjoying the exotic undergrowth of our Sensational Butterflies house. 'In 6 weeks there may be more than 1,000,' our butterfly house manager Luke Brown tells me excitedly, with news of the first zebra butterfly larvae appearing. These should metamorphose into 100s of adult butterflies over the next few weeks.

 

The enchanting yet fleeting stars of our butterfly show never cease to captivate us and this Sunday, Luke will be giving visitors to the Museum an extra flutter in his free talk in the Attenborough Studio. The half-hour talk, A House of Butterflies, runs at 12.30 and again at 14.30 on 9 June.

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Meet Heliconius charitonia commonly known as the zebra butterfly, and Luke Brown (below) commonly known as our butterfly house manager, in our butterfly house and find out more about both at our free talk this weekend. Close up zebra courtesy of Inzilbeth.

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Accompanied by colleague Kerry, Luke's talk will explore some of our most-loved species including his own personal favourite, the zebra butterfly, Heliconius charitonia (pictured above). He hopes to bring along some caterpillars, eggs and specimens (but no live butterflies as they might not like the lights in the studio) and talk a little about the history of the butterfly house and the exhbition itself.

 

The first butterfly house arrived here in 2008 and has become a regular spring-summer annual attraction at the Museum, following a brief absence last year. This year's exhibition which opened at the end of March has been the most successful to date.

 

A butterfly fan since he was a little boy, Luke asked for a greenhouse for his sixth Christmas and ended up running his own company, The Butterfly Gardener Ltd and putting on butterfly shows all over the world. He looks forward to the continued success of Sensational Butterflies and taking his passion further afield to places like the Middle East and Brazil, with a personal project planned for the south coast.

 

Drop into the talk if you can and especially if you're visiting the Sensational Butterflies exhibition. Go on your own butterfly trail through the Museum taking in the Cocoon building and the Wildlife Garden nearby.

 

Don't forget to send in any great photos of butterflies wherever you may snap them and from inside Sensational Butterflies to our Pinterest board for a chance to win some butterfly goodies.  My recent favourites are of the glasswing and butterfly shoes, and congratulations to last month's competition winner.

 

Find out about visiting Sensational Butterflies and tickets and other butterfly events

A House of Butterflies is on 9 June and Butterflies in Disguise is on 15 June

Check out The Butterfly Gardener website

 

Get help with identifiying butterflies and caterpillars

 

If you can't make it to the Museum for our free events, we also webcast some live. Look out for these talks next week: The World I Want and Extinct Ice Age Giants

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As ever, there are heaps of things to do at the Museum over the half-term holidays and you don't even have to come inside the building to enjoy all of them. Just step into the outdoor Sensational Butterflies house and meet 100s of live ones (and it's warm in there), enjoy a coffee or ice cream by the lawn's cafe kiosk, or take a stroll in the lovely Wildlife Garden and its bustling ponds to meet London wildlife among the daisies and buttercups.

 

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Left: An awesome Atlas moth in the butterflies exhibition, snapped by our butterfly house manager. Why not take your own butterfly pics inside the exhibition or at home and enter our Pinterest competition?

 

On Saturday and Sunday, 1 to 2 June, the Wildlife Garden is the focus of our free Bat Festival weekend, which also spreads its wings into the Museum's Darwin Centre for extra displays and talks, so make some plans if you're a batty friend.

 

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Tadpoles, yellow rattle, buttercups and the thriving bee tree in our spring-filled Widlife Garden, which also hosts the Bat Festival on the weekend of 1 to 2 June. Below, batty action at last year's festival.

 

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Inside the Museum, there are over 30 wonderful galleries to explore and the chance to book in advance for the ever-popular Dinosaurs, as well as puppet shows, hands-on activities and investigative fun. Browse our What's on for kids section to get the best recommendations.

 

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Left: Fossil corals display in Dinosaur Way. Right: The roaring jaws of the sabre-tooth cat in the Extinction exhibition - look out for our 2for1 ticket vouchers for Extinction in the Museum.

 

For more grown-up stimulation, there's a choice of two major ticketed exhibitions, Sebastaio Salgado's Genesis and Extinction. Or you could drop in to one or more of the many free talks in our Attenborough Studio scheduled through the week. Starting Sunday 26 and ending on Wednesday 29 May, the talks include live-links to the Isles of Scilly where the Field work with Nature Live team are accompanying Museum scientists performing their research. The Treasures Cadogan Gallery is also a must for anyone who wants to get to the heart of the Museum in one gallery.

 

Volunteers week, 1 to 7 June, coincides with the half-term holiday break and you can get a look at some of the Indonesian fossil corals volunteers helped to prepare for research in a new display cabinet in Dinosaur Way. Or take the lift up to the Specimen Preparation Area in the Cocoon on 30 May to see our new volunteers actually at work.

 

Keep up to date with our What's on and What's on for kids pages.

Find out more about volunteering at the Museum

Read the Wildlife Garden blog

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It's always a pleasure to announce the opening of the butterfly house outside on the East lawn. And I am so glad the sun shone today when the Sensational Butterflies exhbitiion was unveiled officially to the public. I know the butterflies inside the butterfly house love it so when it does.

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Sensational Butterflies opened today, 12 April, on the Museum's front lawn

New features in this year's exhibition like the butterfly puddle (below), cocoon handling and a crawl-through chrysalis, are just some of the things to delight children and adults alike.

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Left: The hatchery in the butterfly house, where butterfly life begins. Right: Butterfly puddle, where male butterflies sip

But really it's about the butterflies themselves. Watching the different tropical species flutter around so gracefully in all their glorious colours, shapes and sizes, while you marvel at how they sense the world. Trying to identify species as you spot them - there are handy identification charts around to refer to.

 

Remember to get your butterfly stamper card stamped as you go through each of the five sensory zones. You can pick one up at the ticket desk entrance. Outside in the garden, things are beginning to grow and you can find gardener's tips for attracting butterflies.

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There are over 10 different species of swallowtail butterfly (left) in the house this year and as in previous years, blue morphos (right) are in great abundance.

 

Have a look at the exhibition highlights slideshow to see some of the reasons why you should visit our butterfly exhibition this year.

 

Enjoy the Sensational Butterflies highlights in the slideshow

 

Sensational Butterflies is open all through the summer and I'll be updating you with news along the way.

 

When you leave the butterfly house, check out the butterfly gift shop. If you go with children, of course they won't let you leave until at least one pair of deely boppers is on someone's head.

 

Tickets for the exhibition are £3.50 each and children aged three and under get in free.

 

You can book tickets online or buy them at the butterfly house ticket booth.

 

Another nice thing about today's exhibition opening is the news that a new butterfly species from Peru, the zebra-like ringlet butterfly, has been uncovered in the Museum's collections by Blanca Huertas, our butterfly curator. Splendeuptychia mercedes differs from its closest relatives by having broad stripes on its wings, resembling that of a zebra’s.

 

'Despite it not being the first time that I have identified a new butterfly species, it is still exciting,’ says Blanca. ‘Almost half of the world’s butterfly species are found in South America, and it is amazing we are still finding new ones there.’

 

Read the news story to find out about the new zebra-like ringlet butterfly discovery

 

 

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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

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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

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Luke Brown, the butterfly house manager, releases the first wave of beautiful butterflies in the house this year
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Hooray, the first live butterflies are now fluttering around the butterfly house on the Museum's front lawn in readiness for our Butterfly Explorers exhibition opening on 8 April. As I write this, a little girl has at least one tropical beauty perched gracefully on her nose (here she is below), surrounded by photographers at today’s photo preview.

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Luke Brown, the butterfly manager, told me that the first few hundred butterflies were released in the butterfly house last week, and by the time the exhibition opens next Thursday they are likely to have nearly doubled in numbers.

 

This year’s exhibition has a different themed butterfly house and outdoor garden to last year. It recreates habitats from the steamy tropics of Asia, Africa, South and Central America to the expansive prairie grasslands of North America and even our own parks and  gardens here in the UK. Every child gets given a passport on entry which they can stamp at each border and record important butterfly species spotted along the way. Find out more on our Butterfly Explorers website.

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Above: Inside the butterfly house at Butterfly Explorers. Below: the blue morpho butterfly, Morpho achilles

'From next week we'll see 100s of big blue morphos (below) and owl butterflies in the butterfly house. These two fruit feeders are favourites with our visitors,' says Luke. Some pupae of moon moths are already in the hatchery and I personally can't wait to see these gorgeous creatures when they emerge.

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More and more butterfly species will appear through the coming months, and about 400 to 500 pupae arrive each week.

 

The fun, outdoor British garden area of the exhibition is designed to attract butterflies, and children. If you look carefully you may see some of the 58 species living in the UK and familiar to this region. Sniff out scents and herbs here and get great gardening tips. Kids will enjoy climbing up into the tree house and getting a better view of the garden.

 

Find out about the exhibition highlights on our Butterfly Explorers website when the exhibition opens next week.