Natural History Museum opens butterfly house

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By Charles Clover, Environment Editor

Last Updated: 4:01pm BST 04/04/2008





One of the greatest collections in the world of dead insects has opened the doors on its first exhibition of live tropical butterflies.

Butterflies as striking as the Owl and Blue morpho, from South America, are normally hidden away in a drawer pinned to a card at the Natural History Museum.

But until August 17, visitors to the museum will be able to see up to 800 live butterflies and moths, from up to 30 species, fluttering around a butterfly house on the museum's lawn.

The butterfly house has been heated to a sweaty but comfortable temperature of 85ºF by day and 55º at night. It also has 80 per cent humidity.

The butterflies will have a variety of food plants to gorge on during their 3-4 week lifetimes and on which to lay their eggs.

After the exhibition, the eggs, which are from species chosen to be in greater profusion than Britain's own declining population of natives, will be returned to butterfly farms.

The entomology collection at the museum contains 28 million insect specimens, all dead, the product of 400 years of collecting by some of the world's most famous naturalists, including Sir Joseph Banks, who sailed with Captain Cook, and Charles Darwin.

The only live insects, until now, have been a colony of ants and the British butterflies which are attracted to the museum's butterfly garden.

The other half of the exhibition, Amazing Butterflies, is an interactive maze where visitors will be able to pretend to be a caterpillar in long grass where poisonous plants and predators lurk.

The exhibition, designed for families, especially children under 12, provides advice on plants to grow in British gardens to attract butterflies - including lavender, verbena, buddleia, forget-me-not, dandelion, pansy and, yes, nettles.


(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2008/04/04/eabfly104.xml)
 

caitlin1214

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Owl butterfly (left) and Isolde Pryle,8, from Hertfordshire, with a 'Paper kite' butterfly



Chrysalises at the tropical butterfly house (left) and a Blue morpho achilles butterfly



Common morphos (left) and a Scarlet swallowtail butterfly at the Natural History Museum butterfly house
 

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