May 27, 2018

Butterflies Take Flight in NHM’s Butterfly Pavilion, April 13-Sept. 1


LOS ANGELES—The Butterfly Pavilion, the living habitat where hundreds of butterflies flutter among nectaring plants, returns for its sixteenth year at the Natural History Museum (NHM) of Los Angeles County on April 13.

The Pavilion will again be home to California natives and travelers from across North America. But it will have a distinctive subtropical feel as well, with showy new species from the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas-Mexico border.

Of the 30 species of butterflies, 20 will be native to the Golden State and 10 will arrive from south Florida and Texas.

Visitors to the Pavilion will not only be able to see this huge diversity of North American butterflies, they’ll also be able to hear them. Male Grey Cracker butterflies make a distinctive cracking sound with their wings as they patrol territories. Another colorful subtropical species, the Malachite, is day-glow green and though never present in California, is a resident of southernmost portions of the U.S. We’ll also have old favorites: the Buckeye butterfly nectaring at lilac verbena flowers; and the local black-and-cream colored Mourning Cloak caterpillars that visitors to the Pavilion can see snacking on arroyo willow leaves.

Watch daily “first flights,” during which museum staff release butterflies that have just emerged from their chrysalises into the Pavilion.

Outside is a new Monarch Waystation where the creature’s whole lifecycle can be seen on milkweed plants—eggs, caterpillars, chrysalis and adult butterflies.

NHM Gallery interpreters, schooled in butterfly facts and carrying iPads loaded with images of each life stage, will be in the Pavilion daily to answer visitors’ questions about metamorphosis, butterfly anatomy and breeding habits.

Some visitors to the Pavilion may find that curious butterflies alight delicately on their arms or shoulders.

There are many theories about why some people make more attractive perches than others, including clothing colors and smells. While there’s no sure-fire way to get a butterfly to land on you, standing still, being tall and wearing a hat seem to help. Additionally, the best flight time in the Pavilion is after it opens every day, between 10 and 11 a.m. Butterflies like sun, but by afternoon, many of them are looking for shade.

There’s also plenty of butterfly activity outside the Pavilion this year.

­­­Though the 3½-acre Nature Gardens have been industriously planted with butterfly-friendly greenery, one section is particularly butterfly-friendly, the Pollinator Garden, the final component of the Nature Gardens that opened on March 20, attracts some species that won’t be inside the Pavilion because they breed well in unrestricted, outdoor spaces: the fiery skipper, Hylephila phyleus, which lays its eggs on grasses; and the gray hairstreak, Strymon melinus, which lays its eggs on native buckwheats.

Member Preview Days are April 11-12, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Museum Members and children 2 and under are admitted to Butterfly Pavilion for free.