GAINESVILLE, Fla. — This summer, the Florida Museum of Natural History invites visitors to transform into caterpillars and journey through one of the planet’s most amazing lifecycles at “Amazing Butterflies” June 13 – Sept. 7.
In “Amazing Butterflies,” visitors experience the challenges of being a caterpillar as it morphs into a beautiful butterfly through a hands-on human maze of larger-than-life leaves, grass and trees. Along the way, they discover the ways caterpillars move, what they eat and how other creatures help them achieve their transformation.
“The timing of ‘Amazing Butterflies’ couldn’t be better, since summer is when our local butterflies are most active and people can watch their magical lifecycle unfold in their own backyards,” said Florida Museum exhibits director Darcie MacMahon.
The adventure begins as visitors look through eggs to see caterpillar friends climbing on leaves and beginning to feed. Families can learn to crawl like a caterpillar by slipping into a set of caterpillar legs and using teamwork and locomotion to sprint for the finish line. Visitors will discover why carpenter ants in Panama defend metalmark caterpillars from parasitic wasps and other predators, and feed a caterpillar its lunch through team games and contests.
Once the transformation from pupa to butterfly is complete, kids can practice flapping giant butterfly wings while avoiding spider webs that lurk around every turn. The “Nectar Food Path Puzzle” and “Squeeze and Sniff” stations explain how butterflies find food by sight and smell. Children and adults can find a butterfly mate by creating a wacky dance and then learn how butterflies select a specific plant on which to lay their eggs.
Visitors can mark their progress as a butterfly by stamping a souvenir garden card at eight stations before zooming out of the maze as a butterfly on “The Monarch Monorail!”
“This exhibit is a wonderfully fun, family-friendly show and perfectly complements the experience of seeing live butterflies in our Butterfly Rainforest,” said vivarium assistant manager Jeff Hansen.
The Butterfly Rainforest is a 6,400-square-foot screened outdoor enclosure with hundreds of free-flying butterflies from around the world, subtropical and tropical plants, and soothing waterfalls. The Rainforest presents butterfly releases at 2 p.m., 3 p.m., and 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday. Inside the museum, the “Wall of Wings” displays more than 13,000 scanned and actual butterfly and moth species, and visitors may observe scientists preparing and rearing new butterflies in the laboratories.
“As museum visitors enter the Butterfly Rainforest the typical expression on their face is priceless,” Hansen said. “The look of wonder followed by exclamations of appreciation and comments like ‘This place is amazing’ are some of the main reasons we love the Rainforest and our job.”
Visitors who want to experience the lifecycle of butterflies in more depth than a visit to “Amazing Butterflies” or the Rainforest have the opportunity to volunteer in the Butterfly Rainforest. The museum is seeking summer volunteers to assist staff with daily horticulture needs, greeting, interpretation and weekend plant sales. For more information on volunteering in the Butterfly Rainforest, visit www.flmnh.ufl.edu/volunteers.
Following the close of “Amazing Butterflies,” the museum will host its annual ButterflyFest Oct. 24-25 featuring gardening and photography workshops, behind-the-scenes tours, children’s activities, tagged Monarch releases, food and more.
“Amazing Butterflies” was created by the Natural History Museum in London in collaboration with Minotaur Mazes. Admission to the exhibit is $7.50 for adults ($6.50 Fla. residents), $6 for seniors and students, and $5.50 for children ages 3-12. Admission to the Butterfly Rainforest is $9.50 for adults ($8 Fla. residents), $7 for seniors and $5 for children ages 3-12. All museum members are admitted free to “Amazing Butterflies” and “MembershipPlus” members receive free admission to the Butterfly Rainforest. For more information call 352-846-2000 or visit www.flmnh.ufl.edu/exhibits/upcoming.htm.
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