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We say farewell to our summer beauties this weekend on Sunday evening when the Sensational Butterflies outdoor exhibition closes for another year. This has been the sixth Museum butterfly exhibition and once again it's been a sensational hit with visitors.




'What's great this year,' says Luke Brown, our butterfly house manager, 'is that in addition to our usual summer tourists, we've seen an increase in returning visitors.




'Butterfly numbers have been higher than ever throughout the run of the exhibition and and we've spotted as many as 1,000 butterflies in one day. The diversity of species has been really rich too. The house can accommodate more than 1,000 happily, but that's a good limit for our nectar supplies.'




Darting through the hothouse one last time today - and it is hot inside, be warned - there seem to be many of the bigger species fluttering around and, in particular, different swallowtails (above). And I don't think I've seen such a gathering of owl butterflies on the feeding table (below).




One of the highlights we'll all remember about this summer's exhibition were the pictures of HRH Prince George's first birthday taken at Sensational Butterflies - the Duchess of Cambridge is our Patron of course. And we hope he'll be back again for his second and many more.




On Sunday evening, the butterfly house team of staff and volunteers will work until sundown and then from first light on Monday to pack up all the inhabitants, who then wing their way over to Longleat in Wiltshire. Their next hothouse, in fact, used to belong to the Museum and was taken over by Longleat in 2008.


Luke flies off to Malta and after that Kuwait for more international butterfly projects and he'll be back next spring when our 2015 butterflies exhibition is due to open again.



The Museum's Sensational Butterflies exhibition is definitely the fluttery flavour of the week. Not only has an incredibly rare half-female-half-male butterfly hatched in the exhibition's butterfly house very recently, Sir David Attenborough also made a very special appearance there today.


The rare dual-sex butterfly recently hatched in our Sensational Butterflies exhibition is a great mormon, Papilio memnon, from Asia. One half is female, with paler colours and blue, red and tortoiseshell flecks. The other half is male and is darker.

The discovery of this unusual dual-sex butterfly - such creatures are called gynandromorphs - caused huge excitement in the Sensational Butterflies exhibition when it was originally spotted. Gynandromorphy happens very occasionally across a range of species, from spiders to crabs. The word comes from gyn which is Greek for female and andro which is Greek for male.


Luke Brown (below right), manager of the exhibition's butterfly house says:



'Pure bilateral gynandromorphs are incredibly rare. I have only ever come across two in my whole career. So you can understand why I was bouncing off of the walls when I learned that a stunning half male, half female bilateral gynandromorph had emerged in the puparium at this year’s Sensational Butterflies exhibition. Many permanent butterfly exhibitions will go through their entire existence without ever seeing one of these rarities.’


The gynandromorph butterfly, however, may not be around for much longer. These species, sadly, only live for two to three weeks.


Read the news story and learn more about the gynandromorph discovery at Sensational Butterflies


Our other exciting and famous visitor to Sensational Butterflies today, which some lucky schoolchildren were lucky to catch a glimpse of, was Sir David Attenborough. He was here to help launch the Big Butterfly Count project organised by the Butterfly Conservation group which asks us to help record butterfly sightings from 16 to 31 July.


Children from The Russell School in Richmond with Sir David Attenborough are charmed by a swallowtail at the Big Butterfly Count launch in our butterfly house this morning.

'Butterflies are one of the stars of the British countryside. Summer just wouldn’t be summer without them' says Sir David


It's the second year running for the Big Butterfly Count and last year more than 10,000 people took part with 189,000 butterflies counted This year's results may help reveal the impact of our record-breaking spring weather.


Our Sensational Butterflies exhibition with its butterfly house full of 100s of live exotic butterflies and moths is highly recommended for a summer holiday visit. Open until 11 September 2011. Tickets £3.50.


As you approach the butterfly house marvel at the glorous outdoor garden (above) where you can learn butterfly-attracting tips for your own garden. Inside the butterfly house, who knows what else may hatch in the coming months? You might even catch sight of the extraordinary Madagascar moon moth (right). But remember when you visit, it's hot, hot, hot in the house, 'cos that's the way the butterfly beauties like it.


Find out about our Sensational Butterflies exhibition

See some exhibition highlights

Buy Sensational Butterflies tickets online


The nationwide OPAL Bugs Count also asks you to look for butterflies, in particular the small tortoiseshell butterfly. There are a humungous 380,041 bugs counted so far at the time of writing, but it grows larger every minute!


Learn more about the butterfly life cycle

More photos taken at the Sensational Butteflies exhibition this week. Select images to enlarge them







The sun shone gloriously yesterday in London to mark the opening of our Butterfly Explorers exhibition outside on the east lawn.


Lots of visitors flocked in to the butterfly house, through the giant globe entrance, and the exhibition looks set to be a popular place over the rest of the school holidays and the coming summer months.


Have a look at the new Butterfly Explorers highlights slideshow on our website to see what exhibition treats await this year's butterfly adventurers, young and old. Get ready for a world expedition that's full of wonder, learning and fun, not forgetting 100s of dazzling live butterflies, a delectable feeding table (below), tall tree house and gigantic garden gnome.


As the spring turns to summer, there’ll be more and more butterflies arriving and plants and flowers maturing. Already some of the first magical moon moths have emerged from their chrysalises and more rare species will make the butterfly house their home over the coming months.


This year's butterfly exhibition is part of the UK International Year of Biodiversity 2010 and highlights the variety of butterfly species around the world, their  conservation and theats to their survival.


Go on a journey from the exotic to the familiar...

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.


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.


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.



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.



'We're on the move to Longleat'


This Sunday, 27 September, I will be very sad to see our beautiful butterflies start to flutter away from the Museum's front lawn as the Buttefly Jungle summer exhibition closes finally. It has been a great success this year many 1000s of visitors have enjoyed it. You've got three days left to get there! But if you miss it, you can always browse our website to remind yourselves of the beauty and variety of butterflies and drama of life in the jungle.


I popped in to the exhibition this week to say goodbye and to find out what will happen to the butterflies themselves and other creatures after the closure.


It looks like there will be about 800 to 900 live butterflies that need to be captured from the butterfly house. These will go to Longleat Safari Park. The safari park bought last year's butterfly house and have already claimed this year's collection. Pupae will go to The Magic of Life Butterfly House in Aberystwyth.



Charlie on his favourite branch


Charlie, our popular iguana who starred in our earlier Darwin exhibition, is going to a new home in a permanent reptile display in Dunstable, so Charlie fans make sure you say your goodbyes at the Museum before Sunday. And have you ever wondered if Charlie is actually glued to the branch he always seems to sit on in his island display? I discovered he does move from the bottom upwards during the day, following the light. But you have to spend the whole day watching to glimpse him in full action.


Sumo, the 18-year--old Argentine horned frog, croaks off to Stapeley Water Gardens in Crewe. Other jungle creatures will return to Amey Zoo (a small exotic pets zoo in Hertfordshire) where they were originally loaned from, and the stick insects re-unite with their owner and Museum insect expert, Simon Dickson. And some of the slow-growing plants will be wintered for future events.

Let's hope we have another butterfly exhibition next year and lots of this year's stars join us again.