The blue morpho butterflies are ready for visitors at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. These spectacular insects, native to various Latin American countries, flutter en masse inside the the museum's Butterfly Pavilion, which has reopened to the general public and will run through October 4. The reemergence of the Butterfly Pavilion, the popular, long-running seasonal exhibition at NHMLA, marks the beginning of the museum's reopening after closing to the public in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There's a lot to see inside the Pavilion. Those blue morpho butterflies might be the first that you notice. At the moment, they are abundant. They're also intriguing creatures, their color alone being a point of point of fascination for both researchers and regular observers. That shimmering, electric shade of blue you see is the result of an iridescent effect that comes as a result of the structure of its wings. As they dart back and forth across the Butterfly Pavilion, you might catch streaks of blue that come and go quickly. That's called "flash and dazzle," a trait of the butterfly that Forest Urban, invertebrate live animal exhibits manager at NHMLA, explained in a recent video put out by the museum.
The blue morpho has a lot of peculiarities, one of which is a diet that consists of rotting fruit. Inside the Butterfly Pavilion, you'll see several small stands topped with fruit-filled plates. On your visit, you might catch a small swarm feasting on chunks of pineapple and orange wedges. When they eat, their wings fold up, exposing the underside with its brown and white circle and stripe pattern.
The butterfly population here is diverse and so is the collection of flora that lives inside the pavilion. You'll find some familiar plants, like California buckwheat, coyote mint and De la Mina lilac verbena, alongside some that stem from outside the region. Spicy jatropha, a plant with small, red flowers that is more commonly found in Cuba and Hispaniola and Barbados' national flower, the red bird of paradise, are growing in the pavilion as well.
You should be prepared to look closely when you're inside the Butterfly Pavilion. You might find butterflies hiding in between leaves or flowers; they're adept at camouflage. You might see a chrysalis, a caterpillar or even some tiny eggs. You might even catch a glimpse of some other creatures while visiting the pavilion. There are gallery interpreters on hand for the visits to answer questions you might have as you explore. They'll also check you when you leave the pavilion, as butterflies are known for catching rides on humans.
In addition to the Butterfly Pavilion, NHMLA's Nature Garden has also reopened. The museum's garden winds down from the entrance facing Exposition Boulevard to the Butterfly Pavilion. It's packed with more than 600 types of plants and gets visitors that can include birds, butterflies and lizards. While it's not a massive garden, there's still plenty to explore here.
Right now, the traffic flow in the garden is one-way. When you leave the Butterfly Pavilion, you'll be instructed to exit via the pathway between the museum and Exposition Park Rose Garden. If you want to enjoy NHMLA's Nature Garden, arrive with time to spare before your appointment at the Butterfly Pavilion and take your stroll first.
For those who want to have lunch at the museum, NHM Grill has set up a grab-and-go station and the patio is open. Like the Nature Garden, you should make plans to eat before you head to the Butterfly Pavilion. Note that the water fountains and water bottle refill stations are closed. There's boxed water for sale inside the Butterfly Pavilion's pop up shop, but NHMLA is encouraging people to bring their own water.
To visit Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, you will need to plan in advance. Due to the limited capacity at the moment, tickets released Monday mornings at 10 a.m. for dates two weeks later. The Butterfly Pavilion itself can accommodate about 10 visitors during a 20 minute period. For members, tickets are free. For non-members, tickets for the Butterfly Pavilion are $6. If you're a non-member and are traveling by car, you will also need to pre-pay for parking, which is $6. (Parking for members is also free.)
If you would like to eat lunch at the museum or explore the Nature Garden, make sure to arrive an hour before the time designated on your ticket. The Butterfly Pavilion is the last stop on the tour, so you'll want to make sure that there is time to see everything else first. Check nhm.org before you visit to check in on safety protocols and any other updates.