London butterfly house has the kids all aflutter

Wed Apr 20, 2011 9:09am EDT
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By Madeleine Cowley

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Hundreds of butterflies are emerging from chrysalises, taking flight, sipping aphrodisiac and delighting children at London's Natural History Museum just in time for the Easter and summer school holidays.

The "Sensational Butterflies" exhibition in a climate-controlled temporary home on the front lawn of the museum will be swirling with live butterflies and moths taken from around the world until September.

Atlas -- the world's largest moth species, the noisy Cracker butterfly and the bright orange Julia butterfly from Brazil -- which has been spotted drinking the tears from the eyes of caimans -- can all be found fluttering about the hot, humid jungle-like interior of the museum's butterfly house.

Inside, visitors are surrounded by butterflies and moths in all shapes, sizes and in a riot of colors. Look closely and you will find some of the delicate creatures camouflaged in the foliage, snacking on rotting fruit or sipping from the mineral-laced aphrodisiac puddle.

Many of the tropical butterflies were bred from common species in their native country, with origins including Central America and parts of Africa and Asia.

Chrysalises taken from distant lands were wrapped in cotton wool and flown to Britain and then carefully glued to a branch in the hatchery. Visitors can peer into the hatchery and with the right timing, capture the moment a butterfly emerges, cautiously spreads its wings and takes flight.

The butterflies seem quite content to perch on visitors moving through the exhibition.

The space is divided into five sensory zones, giving visitors a fascinating insight into the curious ways butterflies see, hear, taste, smell and touch.   Continued...