Located in Westminster, Colorado, the Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center is the only standalone nonprofit zoo for insect invertebrates in the United States, situated on an 11-acre facility featuring exhibit areas dedicated to butterflies, bees, and other native and non-native invertebrate species. The history of the Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center dates back to 1990, when the Rocky Mountain Butterfly Consortium was founded for the purposes of opening a butterfly pavilion for the public in the Westminster area.
Five years later, in July of 1995, the Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center facility was opened to the public as the first nonprofit invertebrate zoo facility in the United States. The following year, it became a part of the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, and in 1997, the facility launched its mobile zoo Bugmobile program, offering educational outreach to more than 20,000 annual area students. Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, a number of new exhibits and buildings were added to the facility, including an amphitheater and an educational facility with four classrooms. In 2008, the facility was part of the NASA program “Butterflies and Spiders in Space,” with curatorial department manager Mary Ann Hamilton serving as a major project consultant.
Permanent Exhibits and Attractions
Today, the Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center encompasses 30,000 square feet of exhibit space on an 11-acre site donated by the City of Westminster. The zoo is home to more than 5,000 invertebrate animals, including bees, butterflies, and a variety of native and non-native insect species. As a public nonprofit organization overseen by a board of directors, the Butterfly Pavilion is supported by visitor admission fees and public funding sources, including corporate sponsorship. As the facility imports non-native insect species for its habitats, it is also overseen by the USDA.
Five exhibit areas are featured within the Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center, including its flagship exhibit, the Wings of the Tropics rainforest butterfly habitat. The 7,000-square-foot conservatory features more than 1,200 butterflies, with more than 500 chrisalides hatching every week. Visitors can observe hatchings as part of Butterfly Encounters and explore more than 200 native plant species grown within tropical rainforest environments, along with fish, turtles, and other tropical species.
At the Crawl-A-See-Em exhibit, visitors can observe a variety of arthropod species in three international habitat areas, including tarantulas, beetles, scorpions, and millipedes. Rosie, a Chilean rose hair tarantula, serves as the exhibit’s mascot and may be held by visitors. The Water’s Edge exhibit focuses on invertebrate species from the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, offering tide pool touch experiences with sea stars, horseshoe crabs, and other aquatic animals. An Invertebrate World exhibit features a dugout exploration area dedicated to extreme animals such as the desert long-legged ant and the prize-fighting peacock mantis shrimp, along with a No Bone Zone exhibit, a Science Spot presentation area, and a Backyard Bugs children’s playscape. An outdoor garden area, the Dee Lidvall Discovery Garden, also offers a butterfly garden and xeriscape garden, featuring plants such as pincushion flowers, nicotiana, hardy ice plants, lavender, and yarrow. Located outside the Pavilion near Big Dry Creek, the zoo’s ½-mile Nature Trail also offers a chance to see native Colorado insects, prairie dogs, and birds of prey.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Group tours of the Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center are offered daily for groups of 10 or more participants, offering group reservation times and interaction with educators within every exhibit space. Field trip opportunities are also offered for elementary and secondary student groups, including scouting groups. 45-minute field trip classes focus on a variety of nature topics, from ecosystem exploration to species diversity. Distance learning programs are offered, bringing zoo insects and resources directly into the classroom. A variety of daily educational programming is also offered for young visitors through the Spineless Spotlights program, including storytime opportunities, an interactive game show, nature trail treks, and live coral feedings.
During the summer months and on school days throughout the year that public schools are closed, Butterfly Pavilion Camps are offered for students ages 5-10, led by the zoo’s educational teams. Art, drama, and play concepts are incorporated into exploration of the natural world during camp workshops. A variety of adult programming is also offered, including a beekeeping bootcamp, a rainforest yoga group, and a Science Talk lecture series. Annual public special events include a Living Lights holiday event, held from mid-December through mid-January. A number of conservation programs are also led by the facility, including the PACE Initiative, which seeks to increase pollinator awareness and restore natural habitats.
6252 W 104th Ave, Westminster, CO 80020, Phone: 303-469-5441
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