Predators and Protection

Your lesson will take place in Dancing Wings Butterfly Garden. Enjoy tropical weather year-round in this glass-enclosed butterfly garden filled with live foliage, a cascading waterfall, and colorful, free-flying North American and tropical butterflies.

Lesson Extensions for Before or After Your Visit

This lesson takes students from what they already know about butterflies to a deeper understanding of how the environment influences butterfly behavior. Any background experience with butterflies is helpful.

Core question: How is the behavior of butterflies influenced by their environment?

Interactive Game (similar to freeze tag)

Duration: 20 to 40 minutes
Group Size: 10 to 40 students or more
Setting: works best outdoors or in large room setting


Students will learn about butterfly predators, the relationship between a predator and its prey, and factors that influence a butterfly’s ability to survive.


  • Food tokens: poker chips work well, but so will small pieces of paper or cardboard (enough for three per “butterfly”)
  • Bandanas, vests, or pieces of bright clothing to be worn by “predators”
  • 4 or 5 hula hoops


  1. Set up a large playing area (70 feet long if possible).
  2. Designate one end of the field as the butterfly “house” and one end as the “garden.”
  3. Place 4 or 5 hula hoops on the open area between the “house” and the “garden.” These represent shelter where butterflies are safe. (If hula hoops aren’t available, you could use string or chalk outlines.)
  4. Scatter food tokens on the ground at the “garden.”
  5. Identify your predators by giving them hats, vests, bandanas, or other forms of identification. You should have 1 predator for every 4 to 6 butterflies. You can tell the students they are birds, snakes, or bats.
  6. Tell the butterflies, all standing at their “house,” that they must retrieve 3 food tokens from the “garden” and bring them home, but they can only carry 1 token at a time. Their travel is difficult, though, because birds, snakes, or bats might try to eat them. Butterflies have 2 ways to prevent being eaten by the predators. They can freeze, or they can run to the bushes (inside the hula hoops) where they cannot be “seen” by the predators.
  7. Predators can be anywhere on the field and will simply “tag” the butterflies to simulate eating them. Predators, however, cannot tag frozen butterflies, or butterflies in their “house,” in the “garden,” or in the “bushes.” Tagged butterflies leave the game.
  8. Make each round of the game about 5 to 7 minutes long (or you might lose the attention of your captured butterflies who must wait along the sidelines). Butterflies can stay frozen as long as they’d like, but if they don’t have 3 food tokens at the end of the activity, they will die of starvation. Explain to students that sometimes wild critters have to choose between eating and safety.

Play a couple rounds so others have a chance to be predators.

Ask the students to summarize what happened and what methods of evasion were most effective. Use this as a springboard to discuss what we can do to help butterflies survive in the wild.

Encourage students to design their own interactive game about butterflies and their environment.

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