April 20, 2011 / 1:14 PM / 6 years ago

London butterfly house has the kids all aflutter

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.

While the live exhibition can be appreciated by all ages, a crawl through the chrysalis and compound eye viewfinder were hits with the kids as was the opportunity to come into close contact with this elusive insect.

"The butterflies were sitting on my hands and they felt really tickly. I had to put to orange juice on my nose to make the butterfly stay there and it was exciting. I love butterflies!" five-year-old visitor Sabina said.

Apart from the fun and scientific education for youngsters, one of the other serious aims of the butterfly house is to urge gardeners to help increase the dwindling numbers of some British species by planting butterfly friendly flowers.

To that end the exhibition also has an outdoor garden with tips on how to attract butterflies at home.

The exhibition runs until September 11th.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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