The museum is closed today, Thursday, November 27.

Live Collections FAQs

Find answers to many of the frequently asked questions about Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden at The Strong:

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Why do you have a butterfly garden in a history museum dedicated to the study of play?

The butterfly garden and other living collections at the museum represent a type of play called “nature play.” This form of play can positively affect people by helping them to slow their pace and relax. With the presence of gardens and aquariums, the museum recognizes this important aspect of play.

How many butterflies are there in the garden?

Though it varies day to day, there are approximately 1,000 butterflies flying in the garden at any given time.

Can I take pictures in the garden?

Of course! Taking pictures does not harm the butterflies.

How many different species of butterflies are in the garden?

On average you will find 50 to 75 butterfly species flying in the garden on any given day. Over the course of a year, we may introduce more than 175 different species.

What types of plants will I see in the garden?

You can find 150 species of tropical plants in Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden, including epiphytes, orchids, and water plants.

What other animals call Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden home?

In addition to the butterflies, the garden is home to Socrates, a toucan, and several Chinese Button Quail, Red-Legged Honeycreepers, turtles, goldfish, and a couple of tortoises.

What are the little birds running around on the floor of the garden?

Chinese Button Quail! The small quail are not only fun to watch, but they help to keep some of the insects in the garden under control, providing an environmentally friendly way for the museum to control pests.

How long do the butterflies live in the garden?

Butterflies live, on average, about 10 days in the garden.

Can I watch butterflies emerge from their chrysalises?

Yes! The emergence chamber has a clear glass front so you can watch as butterflies emerge from their chrysalises.

What is the emergence process like?

When butterflies first emerge, their wings are small and folded. To expand their wings large enough for flying, a butterfly has to hang upside-down so that blood can pump into its wings. Once the wings are fully expanded and hardened—this process can take a couple of hours or more—the butterfly is able to fly. When enough of the butterflies are ready to fly, the museum's entomologists gather them into a small cage, which is brought into the garden where the butterflies are released.

What is the lifecycle of a butterfly?

The butterfly is a type of insect that undergoes complete metamorphosis. This means its lifecycle has four stages:

  • Stage one: the egg. Much like chickens, all butterflies start out in eggs surrounded by hard shells before becoming caterpillars. These eggs often have beautiful designs on them.
  • Stage two: the larva or caterpillar. Caterpillars are long and wormlike. They like to eat plants—lots of them.
  • Stage three: the pupa or chrysalis. When in the chrysalis stage, butterflies do not eat. They can barely move at all in this stage.
  • Final stage: the adult winged butterfly. In this stage, the insect flies around and uses its long proboscis to drink from flowers, fruit, and other fluids.

Where do the butterflies come from?

The butterflies in Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden come to the museum from butterfly farms in tropical regions all over the world. These butterfly farms are ecologically sustainable and help to protect local rainforests. The museum’s indoor garden features butterflies from Central and South America, Africa, and Asia.

How do the butterflies get to Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden?

Each week the museum receives 500 to 800 pupae from butterfly farms all over the world. The chrysalises arrive in specially padded packages and, upon arrival, are carefully counted and checked for health. Those that pass inspection are sorted by species and attached to rods for hanging in the emergence chamber.

What do butterflies eat?

Adult butterflies eat a variety of liquid foods. The majority of the butterflies in our garden feed on nectar from flowers and the juices from fruit.

What are the loofas for?

Loofas are sprayed with a mixture of Gatorade and honey and serve as a food source for the butterflies, providing them with sugars and salts that they need to remain active.

What is the temperature in the garden?

The temperature in the garden is kept at a stable 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 74 degrees at night.

How big is the garden?

Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden is approximately 1,800 square feet.

What is the difference between a butterfly and a moth?

It can be difficult to tell the difference between a butterfly and a moth, but there are a few general features that may help you recognize the difference. One way to identify these is to look at the antennae. Butterflies tend to have antennae that are straight with a slight bulge at the tip while moths have completely straight or feathered antennae. Also, butterflies tend to be active during the day, while moths are primarily active at night.

How do I raise my own butterflies?

There are a variety of butterfly rearing kits; several are available in the museum shops. You can also learn how to create an outdoor butterfly garden by visiting the Create Your Own Butterfly Garden page.

Do you rent the garden out for group events?

A visit to the lush, indoor butterfly garden can be added to a reception or special event (during non-public hours). Visit the Facility Rentals page or call 585-410-6332 for details.