News Room | Tropical Rainforest in Butterfly House
80 degree tropical rainforest in Durham, N.C. keeps Carolineans warm
(DURHAM, NC) - While many North Carolinians are struggling with the cold, visitors to the Museum of Life and Science in Durham are relaxing in an 80 degree tropical paradise. The attraction, Magic Wings Butterfly House is one of the largest butterfly conservatories in the world. “It’s a relief to escape the cold and to see all of these beautiful butterflies and exotic looking plants. I feel like I’m on vacation,” commented Marietta Eukanoba Okoli, a Museum visitor. The thirty-foot-high conservatory is home to hundreds of tropical butterflies and over 250 species of exotic plants. Visitors can expect to see butterflies dancing and playing among tropical fruit trees, drinking from a flowing stream and hovering over nectar-producing flowers.
All of the butterflies in the conservatory are native to Southeast Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. The brilliant Blue Morpho, clear winged Greta Oto and impressive Paperkite are only three of the usually 20 to 40 species that call the conservatory home.
All of the plants at Magic Wings are also native to tropical environments. The east wall of the conservatory represents the rainforest and houses trees, understory plants, and vines. The southwest corner of the conservatory, which gets the strongest sunlight, contains plants that are adapted to drier conditions, such as the shaving brush tree and the desert rose. Half of the west wall has a fruit and spice theme, and includes familiar tropical fruits and spices like guava, mango, papaya, black pepper, coffee, exotic fruit trees such as the Jaboticaba and the Miracle –garden and cacao (the source of chocolate).
“The cacao pods are blooming just in time for Valentine's Day,” commented Taneka Bennett of the Museum.
The conservatory is also home to three avian species that help naturally control pests. The Partridge family is integral in helping manage soil pests. The Oriental White-eye Birds and the Red-legged Honey Creeper have a penchant for leaf pests and ants.
Visitors can also experience the close-up wonder of butterflies emerging from their chrysalis and learn about the complete metamorphosis of the relatively short Lepidoptera life cycle from caterpillar to pupa to wings. Butterfly releases occur at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday and at 3 p.m. on Sunday.
The Museum of Life and Science in Durham is one of North Carolina’s top attractions, drawing more than 400,000 visitors in 2009. To learn more about Magic Wings Butterfly House, click here.