How can I best enjoy my visit to the exhibition?
We encourage you to move slowly through the space, respect the butterflies and take plenty of photos to share the moment!
Wearing bright colours can attract the butterflies. If a butterfly lands on you, stay still and admire its beauty.
It is hot and humid in the exhibition, so dress accordingly.
Do not bring fruit or anything else to feed the butterflies.
Where do the butterflies come from?
All the butterfly species come from two sustainable butterfly farms in Costa Rica. These cooperative farms follow fair-trade principles for their employees. The first of each species was caught in the wild, but subsequent generations are bred in greenhouses.
Each species is transported to the museum while in its pupae developmental stage. The pupae are on a shipping tray in a box that is controlled for temperature and humidity.
How does the museum care for these live insects?
The butterflies are cared for by the museum's animal-care team members, who are licensed to raise, handle, feed and care for them.
The museum's solarium and animal-care zone are licensed areas that have import permits from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Where are the butterflies kept in the museum?
The butterflies are living in the museum's solarium, a greenhouse at the back of the museum. Tropical butterflies thrive in a warm and humid environment—like the tropical forest of Costa Rica. These conditions will be closely replicated in the solarium.
This area, which accommodates about 25 visitors at any given time, has been populated with tropical plants that would be typically found in the butterflies' habitat.
How long do the butterflies live?
Once a butterfly emerges from its chrysalis (pupa), its lifespan is relatively short—from a few days to a month or so. So, natural mortality will happen over the course of the exhibition. Because of the short lifespan, the museum has arranged to repopulate the exhibition with new shipments of pupae each week.
What do the butterflies feed on?
The butterflies can feed on a number of flowering plants in the solarium, but the animal-care team has ensured there will be other sources of food. These include feeding trays of fruits (mainly oranges and bananas).
The feeding stations also have Gatorade because it does not ferment and it contains high salt and mineral content.
What plants are in the exhibition?
The solarium has been populated with tropical plants such as a banana plant. Most were chosen because they provide camouflage opportunities for the butterflies.
All tropical plants for this exhibition originate from Florida, U.S.A. The museum's animal-care team will also be tending to the plants during the run of the exhibition.
What happens to the butterflies after they die?
As with the insects in our Nature Live gallery, natural mortality will occur during the exhibition. The animal-care team is licensed to safely dispose of the butterflies.
Some of the butterflies may be kept for educational purposes—to examine anatomy and structure, or for collections.