Explore a tropical rainforest in the heart of Houston  at the Cockrell Butterfly Center
Explore a tropical rainforest in the heart of Houston at the Cockrell Butterfly Center

HOUSTON-Flutter through theCockrellButterflyCenterat the Houston Museum of Natural Science and discover hundreds of live butterflies, exotic insects, and remarkable plants in a verdant rainforest environment.

Housed in a unique, three-story glass structure, this spectacular, living exhibit is designed to be an interactive experience where butterflies flutter among-and occasionally land on-visitors. Watch as butterflies from as far away as tropical Asia andSouth Americahover over bright flowers or sip fruit juice from feeding stations.

To provide a comfortable home for butterflies, the conservatory mimics the environment ofCentral America. Trees such as mahogany, ironwood, and palms, as well as twisting trunks of lianas, weave a lush canopy above the ginger, aroids, ferns, orchids, bromeliads, and prayer plants.

Far more than simply a butterfly habitat, theCockrellButterflyCenteris a complete insect exhibit. The Brown Hall of Entomology is a multi-story display that surrounds the main conservatory and showcases live, exotic insects from all over the world.

"Insects, including butterflies, literally make our world go around," saidNancyGreig, curator of entomology. "They pollinate plants that grow our food and break down dead matter so that it can be redistributed into the environment. Without insects, we couldn't exist."

Catch "Beetlemania," learn how insects are used in crime scene investigations, and discover their amazing diversity. Learn about insects older than the dinosaurs, the amazing insect anatomy, and what the bright colors of many bugs mean. Live exhibits are interspersed among the preserved specimens and interactives; visitors will see the Goliath Birdeater Tarantula, Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, Spiny Devils, Giant Katydids, Desert Hairy Scorpions, White-Eyed Assassin Bugs, and many more.

"TheCockrellButterflyCenteris an immersive exhibit designed to draw visitors into the amazing world of insects to discover entomology in action," said Joel A. Bartsch, president of the Houston Museum of Natural Science. "Students and families will come to see all insects in a new light, and leave inspired to help conserve these fragile wonders."

Examine practical entomology on the lower level of the Brown Hall of Entomology, through new interactive exhibits, and discover tools of the trade in a real entomology lab. Exhibits on insects as food include a vending machine where visitors can purchase edible insect snacks. Learn how to create a butterfly garden at home, and discover unusual careers in entomology - like that of a "bug wrangler," someone who trains insects to appear in movies.

Highlights of the new exhibits include a crawl-through model of a beehive, giant models of insects like caterpillars and beetles, immersive exhibits that make visitors feel like they are the size of a bug, and a video station where giant models of insect heads are outfitted with specialized cameras. Here, visitors can see themselves as different species of insects would see them - in 360 degrees, through a different visual color spectrum, and more.

Since it opened in 1994, one of the main goals of theCockrellButterflyCenterhas been to promote butterfly watching, butterfly gardening, and other aspects of butterfly conservation. Educational programs such as Bugs on Wheels, which takes live insects into area schools, and bi-annual Butterfly Plant Sales encourage the understanding and respect for insects and their habitats.

For tickets, visit www.hmns.org or call (713) 639-4629.

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