The ‘Seasonal Butterflies’ exhibition at the National History Museum in London recently came to an end. But fear not: if you’re a dedicated lepidopterist, you can find amazing collections of butterflies all around the globe in the butterfly houses listed below. Butterfly houses emerged in the late 1970s when it was found that tropical conditions within greenhouses could be used as a home for the most exotic and unusual butterfly species.
The Vienna Schmetterlinghaus, or Imperial Butterfly House, is right in the heart of the city on the edge of Burggarten Park. The Butterfly House is one of the buildings of the Hofburg Palace, the home of the Habsburgs of Austria until 1918. In the Burggarten (the Emperor’s Garden), they built the Palm House, a greenhouse designed in 1901 in Art Nouveau style by the architect Friedrich Ohmann. The Butterfly House was originally established in 1990 at the Wustenhaus Schönnbrunn, before moving into the magnificent Palm House in 1998. The huge glass domes of the Palm House were well-suited to house exotic plants and waterfalls, with plenty of room for the butterflies to fly freely. There are now around 400 butterflies at the Schmetterlinghaus.
The Singapore Airport Butterfly Garden is, unsurprisingly, the first to be based in an airport. But Singapore Changi Airport is also home to a swimming pool and cinema, as well as cactus, sunflower, and orchid gardens. You will find the Butterfly Garden at Terminal 3 of the airport, with over 1000 butterflies representing 40 different species native to Malaysia. The garden houses a six-meter-high waterfall, jungle flowers, and greenery to keep the butterflies well-fed. It also features a specially designed curved roof system that allows natural air to enter and provides enough room for free flight. Walkways guide you through the garden, which was opened to visitors in 2008.
The Bornholm Butterfly Park lies on the edge of Nexo on the picturesque Danish island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea. The Park features a tropical butterfly house in what was formerly a hothouse, and an outdoor butterfly garden full of native species like the Painted Lady, Orange Tip, and Red Admiral. The Bornholm Butterfly Park opened in 1997 and now houses over 1000 butterflies, as well as tropical plants brought in to provide the nectar the butterflies need. You can find chrysalises amongst the plants and see butterflies like the Atlas Moth, Owl Butterfly, Large Tree Nymph, the amazing Glasswing, and the Peleides Blue Morpho, native to Central America and the Caribbean.
The Butterfly Conservatory is part of the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, a few kilometers to the north of the Falls in Ontario, Canada. The Conservatory was opened in 1996 and now houses around 2000 butterflies, representing 45 species. Many of these are brought from the tropics in South Asia, Australia, and South America. Under its dome, the Conservatory holds rainforest conditions, plants that feed the butterflies, and an 180-meter pathway along which you can walk. At the Emergence Window, you can see butterflies leaving their pupae and start to take flight. Among the species on show are the Banded Orange, Gulf Fritillary, Sara Longwing, and the Common Mormon.
Close to the town of Teluk Bahang in the Malaysian state of Penang, the award-winning Butterfly Farm was set up in 1986 on a site stretching over eight hectares to focus on education, research, and conservation of rare butterfly species whose natural habitat is under threat. The Malay Peninsula is home to over a thousand butterfly species, one of the highest concentrations in the world. And the Penang Butterfly Farm is home to over 4000 butterflies from 120 species including rare and endangered varieties like the Orange Oakleaf, Yellow Birdwing, and Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing. It was the first butterfly house in the world to be situated within the tropics. Over 300 plant varieties are used to keep the butterflies fed.
Butterfly World in Coconut Creek, Florida, was the first and is still the largest butterfly house in the USA. Opened in 1988, it was founded by Ronald Boender, who took inspiration from the emergence of butterfly houses in the UK, in particular, the now-closed London Butterfly House. There are several butterfly aviaries allowing free flight, a butterfly farm and research center, botanical gardens and aviaries for hummingbirds. Butterfly World is closely involved with education and breeding programs. It works with the University of Florida to re-introduce the endangered Schaus Swallowtail to the state. Over the course of a year, 150 species are on show at Butterfly World.
In the center of the handsome town of Stratford-upon-Avon on the banks on the Avon, Stratford Butterfly Farm opened in 1985, one of the first tropical butterfly houses in the world. The huge greenhouse is packed with a landscape of waterfalls, tropical plants, and ponds. Among the tropical plants is the lantana, a weed packed with nectar that is a perfect food for the butterflies. There is a caterpillar room to see the early stages of the life cycle, an insect room, and the flight room where you’ll find over 250 different species of butterfly from 20 different countries. Many are bred at Stratford, and some are imported from the tropics from conservation projects.
You can find butterfly gardens at many country houses today. Blenheim Palace and Longleat have their own butterfly houses, for example. One of the finest of this type lies in Germany, at Schloss Sayn, on the banks of the Rhine. It is located north of the city of Koblenz, where the 800-year-old castle stands close to a restored palace within a romantic landscape garden. The butterfly house was founded in 1987 by Princess Gabriela zu Sayn-Wittgenstein. There are banana trees and palms providing food to butterflies that come from South Asia, Africa and South America, including the Owl Butterly, Atlas Moth, and Blue Morpho. There are also areas devoted to caterpillars, with resident iguanas and Chinese Dwarf quails, and an insectarium.
Situated in Kuranda, half an hour from Cairns in the north of Queensland, the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary was created in 1987 and is still the largest butterfly house in the country. The Sanctuary has over 1,500 tropical butterflies, all of them local species from Australia kept in the aviary with replicated rainforest conditions. You can take tours of the aviary and see the butterflies in flight, and be guided through the laboratory and breeding area. The labs breed over 30,000 caterpillars every year and have previously managed to nurture the huge Hercules Moth. Among the butterflies on show are the Kuranda Butterfly, the Ulysses Butterfly, and the Cairns Birdwing.
The Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, Colorado boasts of being the first stand-alone, non-profit invertebrate zoo in the whole USA. It was set up in 1995 by the Rocky Mountain Butterfly Consortium, with a 7,200-square-foot tropical butterfly house, and areas for other animals. The butterfly house is monitored to recreate rainforest conditions for species from around the world, with 600 to 1000 chrysalises coming into The Butterfly Pavilion labs every week from farms in the tropics. There are plenty of Colorado native species on show, along with exotic types like the African Blue-Banded Swallowtail, Pink Rose, Paper Kite, Scarlet Mormon, Blue Glassy Tiger and the African Moon Moth.