Photo by Alyse Horn
By Alexandria Stryker
The National Aviary has unveiled a new immersive exhibit that allows visitors to get up close and personal with nature’s most beautiful insects — butterflies.
The Butterfly Garden is housed in the Rose Garden, an outdoor, screened-in space that permits butterflies to flutter without restriction among the Aviary’s guests. According to Cheryl Tracy, the national director of the Aviary, the exhibit is “specifically designed to be up close and personal,” allowing visitors the opportunity to feed and hold the insects.
There are as many as 300 to 500 butterflies in the exhibit at any given time as well as up to 13 varieties of species, including Monarchs and Painted Ladies. Butterfly lifespans average only two or three weeks, so the insects on display are constantly changing. The Butterfly Garden also contains a chrysalis box where visitors can observe the butterfly life cycle with live examples of chrysalises, or cocoons.
The exhibit was introduced with the help of some of the Aviary’s other popular residents. Dylan, a martial eagle, is an even-tempered bird showcased in the Soar! program. The soaring show involves birds of prey like Dylan taking to the sky and displaying their hunting and flight abilities. Also attending the Butterfly Garden’s presentation was Valentino, an eight-month-old Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth. He is on display daily and, according to Tracy, has been “one of the most popular animals we’ve ever had here at the Aviary.” The Butterfly Garden, as with the sloth, is an expansion is meant to “showcase biodiversity in different habitats,” Tracy said.
The butterfly exhibit is open daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for this summer only, so plan your visit before these insects fly away for good.