Friday, June 13, 2014

Visiting the Butterfly Pavilion at the National Museum of Natural History

In the summertime it can get pretty hot here in the D.C. area and while the many public and community pools are a great option to spend summer days, some days it is just too hot even for that or people (like me!) might just be looking to do something different for a change of pace.

The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. has a lot to offer (it's one I recently put on my "must see in DC" list). There are a ton of cool things to see in this museum, but in my opinion, the Butterfly Pavilion is one amazing exhibit. 

Close up of Butterfly

A butterfly lands upon a plant in the balmy Butterfly Pavilion at the National Museum of Natural History

Going inside is a remarkable experience.  Located on the second floor, adjacent to Partners in Evolution, visitors can enter the Pavilion and experience the magic of hundreds of butterflies, from all over the globe, fluttering about.

Butterflies landing on flowers
Butterflies landing on flowers
According to the Museum [PDF], more than 400 butterflies (30 species) are housed in the pavilion at any given time. When you visit the Pavilion, this is clearly the case when you enter the doors, it's like stepping into a magical world as you are surrounded by butterflies, some of which may land on you.

Morpho peleides butterfly

A butterfly lands on a visitor at the National Museum of Natural History's Butterfly Pavilion in Washington, D.C. The Morpho peleides is a gorgeous butterfly, when its wings are spread it is a fantastic shade of blue. Unfortunately, the Morpho was too quick for me to capture with its wings fully open.

Since the butterflies come from the tropics of North America, South America, Central America, Africa and Asia, the exhibit is a steady approximate 80 degrees Fahrenheit (about 26.6 Celsius). The butterflies at the Pavilion eat nectar from the many flowers, which is supplemented by fruit and sugar water.

Butterflies eating pineapple
These two butterflies were feasting on pineapple during a visit

This butterfly stopped long enough to pose for a photo

Admission to the National Museum of Natural History is free, however, there is a cost and timed ticketed entry to visit the Butterfly Pavilion (see website for cost and Pavilion hours - keep in mind -Tuesdays are free! And there are also extended hours for the summer months). In my experience, Sunday mornings, in general, are quiet in the museum and you might have opportunity to spend more time inside seeking out the different types of and habits of these beautiful butterflies.

The museum is located downtown on the National Mall at 10th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W.  

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