Culture notes

From egg, to caterpillar, to chrysalis, to butterfly

Children will love this butterfly exhibition at the Natural History Museum

12 April 2014

9:00 AM

12 April 2014

9:00 AM

South Kensington is teeming with butterflies at the moment, or at least the specially constructed tropical enclosure at the Natural History Museum is. Sensational Butterflies (until 14 September) takes you on a journey through the life cycle of, you guessed it, the butterfly: from egg, to caterpillar, to chrysalis, to butterfly.

Butterflies had a good time of it last year, because of the warm sunny weather — the best for seven years — but the year before had been one of the worst ever for these insects (and for us), with their numbers crashing. The outlook is good for this summer. Fingers crossed.

While the exhibition is aimed mainly at children, anyone would be fascinated to see, for example, rows of pupae lined up in the hatchery and, if you are lucky, watch a butterfly or moth emerge. Cocoon escapees are then let loose into the enclosure, with the pupa stocks replenished each week — some butterflies live for only a few days…

There are butterflies from all around the world — from Asia, the Americas, Australia as well as from Europe, so exotic species such as the Red Lacewing or Blue Morpho can be spotted among the tropical plants and flowers. A note of warning: while I was wandering about a very small child screamed with fear when a huge specimen landed on his nose. But for most children a visit should be a real treat, with budding lepidopterists learning how to create their own butterfly gardens at home.

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