Yesterday Chris and I took advantage of the beautiful long weekend to take in one of the last days of the Butterflies in Flight exhibit at the Canadian Museum of Nature, and let me tell you, this one was really quite magical.
This exhibit has been running since December 16, and finished this weekend. You can hear a very nice explanation of the exhibit by curator Nicole Dupuis here. I’ve been wanting to see it since it opened, and since this was a ticketed exhibit that you had to plan ahead for, the time got away from me, and I realized it was either going to be this weekend or not at all.
When you first enter the exhibit, there is lots of information about the butterflies accompanied by some quick and thoughtful interactives.
All of the butterflies were transported in their larva stage to the museum from Costa Rica. Because of the short life span of butterflies, the museum continued to maintain new larva and chrysalides as the fully-grown butterflies mated so that there was a rotating supply throughout the run of the exhibit. The chrysalids and larva were on display at the beginning of the exhibit so that visitors could learn about the different stages of development and, if they were lucky enough, see one emerge!
You could also learn about the mechanics of how butterflies fly (entirely different from birds), and look up close as some samples of their wings and other parts. According to the text, “Birds fly using muscles that are directly attached to their wings. Most insects do something very different. They use muscles to distort the shape of their thorax. This distortion forces the wings into a sequence of upstrokes and downstrokes.” Visitors could then turn the crank at the front of the display to see how this worked.
There was also lots of information about what we can do individually to help encourage butterfly and bee survival and migration. The exhibit explained that the number of butterflies in Europe has declined by 50% since the 90s, and North-American honey-bee colonies have reduced in number by 59% since the Second World War. The museum included an interactive where you could learn what types of flowers provide food for butterflies and caterpillars, and a sheet that visitors could take home to learn about what types of things to plant to attract (and feed) them.
After all of this, you could go through and experience the biggest interactive of the whole exhibit – being in a room filled with around 200 butterflies! I made sure to wear a bright dress to help attract them, and was not disappointed! They landed on our shoulders and hands, and Chris even had one land right on his head! We got to watch them fly and feed, and it was an unforgettable experience.
I hope that this or a similar experience comes back to the Canadian Museum of Nature again soon, and if it does, I highly recommend getting yourself some tickets and checking it out! It’s a pretty rare and special thing to be able to get this close to some pretty amazing and tiny creatures.