New York

How A Room Full Of Butterflies Kept Me From Going Crazy

It happens this time every year. I go a little crazy.

Months of seemingly endless cold and grey, and time spent sequestered in my apartment (doesn’t help that my home is also my office), has me jumping out of  my skin. AMNH_-1971

I recently spent 10 days in Florida for this exact reason, but the polar vortex was in full swing upon my return and I quickly fell back into my malaise.

Enter the Butterfly Conservatory in the American Museum on Natural History (AMNH), in New York City (or wherever you might find one near you).

For me it’s a delightful afternoon escape – with lots of photographic opportunities – from the winter blues. It’s as if you’ve been transported to Costa Rica.

Ok, that might be overdoing it but you get my drift.

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A butterfly stops to rest but its fluttering wings are just a blur

If you haven’t been, I highly recommend it. If you have children it’s really a must-see; kids eat this up like it’s covered in chocolate.

Why? It’s pretty magical.

In a conservatory there are hundreds of species of spectacular butterflies and moths in a relatively small space, that you can “ooo” and “ah” over for as long as you like. They’re everywhere: in the air, on the foliage, on the ceiling, everywhere. They may, if you’re lucky, land on you.

One of my favorite aspects of the conservatory is that you can see so many species at once

One of my favorite aspects of the conservatory is that you can see so many species at once

In fact, the visitor mission du jour, it seemed, was to become a human tarmac.  Eager children and their parents alike stood immobile, hands extended like Frankenstein, hoping a butterfly would find them a worthy perch.

You’d be surprised how many got their wish.

A man does his best to coax a butterfly from his hand to this little girls'

A man does his best to coax a butterfly from his hand to this little girls’

If you’re inspired to check out the AMNH, here are a few tips for making the most of your visit. (These may or may not apply to other butterfly exhibits)

Some of the living chrysalis on display in the conservatory

Some of the living chrysalis on display in the conservatory

Wear layers

I enjoy the conservatory in part because of its tropical environment – during a frigid winter it feels wonderfully delicious. That being said, be prepared and dress in layers as it’s really toasty and humid. I recommend checking your coat when you arrive and wear something lightweight under a sweater that you can take off.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

The staff is very knowledgeable, nice and happy to answer your questions – they really know their butterflies.

(Side note: Success! For those of you who saw my previous post entitled: “Alert! Bug Lovers, What The Heck Is This?” I asked the conservatory team if they knew what kind of caterpillar it was, and though they didn’t know off-hand, they, without being asked, did some research and later identified it as a White Marked Tussock Moth. Nice, right?!)

Visit near the end of the day

While I’ve never found it too crowded, after 3:30pm it starts to clear and you have more room in the conservatory to enjoy your visit. It’s the best time to take pictures if that’s of interest. The AMNH museum in New York closes at 5:30pm.

If you’ve been to a butterfly conservatory and have something to share, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

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Would love to hear from you!