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Visit the Tropics at Hershey Gardens

Dan Babbitt, associate director of Hershey Gardens
No two days are alike in the Atrium, so we encourage guests to visit frequently.
Dan Babbitt, associate director of Hershey Gardens

The blue morpho butterfly, with its beautiful wings of blue that almost appear lit by electricity. The paper kite, with its elegant white wings and black veining. And the striking dots and lines that grace the wings of the magnificent owl butterfly like a watercolor painting. Opened in July 2016, the year-round indoor tropical Butterfly Atrium located in the Milton & Catherine Hershey Conservatory at Hershey Gardens brings together butterfly species from all over the world.

“There are about 40 species of butterflies flying in the Butterfly Atrium at any given time,” said Dan Babbitt, associate director of Hershey Gardens. “We can rotate the types of species we have, which means the mix of butterflies is always changing. No two days are alike in the Atrium, so we encourage guests to visit frequently. And we’re open daily.”

And just where do all of these amazing winged creatures come from? While the list is quite lengthy, here are some of Babbitt’s favorites—and their countries of origin.

One of the larger butterfly species, the blue morpho (Morpho peleides) is native to tropical forests of Latin America, from Mexico to Colombia. With brilliant blue coloring on the top of its wings and a tan underside characterized by six dark brown dots on each wing, the blue morpho’s scales are not actually blue, but white. Through an effect called “structural coloration,” which is somewhat similar to the effect that occurs when light is shown through a prism, its wings diffract some colors on the light spectrum while bouncing off other colors, such as blue.

The paper kite (Idea leuconoe) can be found flying through the mangroves of Malaysia. Its large wings are colored white, looking almost translucent effect, with distinctive black markings.

You’ll find longwings (Heleconius sp) fluttering through the rainforests of South and Central America. As its name implies, its wings are longer and narrower than other butterfly species. There are several species of longwings, each having their own dramatic coloring. Some have jet black wings with white stripes, while others are colored with bands of orange, red, yellow and even blue.

Magnificent owls (Caligo atreus) are larger butterflies that fly through the rainforests of Costa Rica. Each wing is characterized by a large brown dot – or “eye” – that mimics the appearance of owl eyes in an effort to ward off predators.

The leopard lacewing (Cethosia cyane) can be found from India to Thailand and southern China. Its wings appear almost like pieces of delicate lace, hence its name, woven with colors of orange, black and white.

Pearl charaxes (Charaxes varanes) are found in the forests of West Africa. Its wings are white towards the center and shaded light brown towards the edges. Tan speckles on the brown portion of the wing, along with a uniquely shaped wing, make the pearl charaxes a guest favorite.

The Butterfly Atrium at Hershey Gardens is open 363 days a year (Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas). Hours of operation vary by season. Visit HersheyGardens.org for details.