6. Butterfly Enclosure

The Karen Wertheimer Butterfly Enclosure is a seasonal breeding facility for native Lowcountry butterflies. Our enclosure is surrounded by a garden that is planted with a combination of nectar plants and host plants. The nectar plants provide food to adult butterflies while the host-plants are used as food by the caterpillars.

It is important to have various available host plants, because different species of butterflies use different host plants to lay their eggs. Around this enclosure we have 13 different species of host plants for accommodate 13 different species of butterflies. During the spring, butterflies are attracted to the smell of their host plants – using the smelling capabilities of their antennae. Due to the presence of the appropriate host plants I the garden that surrounds this enclosure, butterflies are attracted here in the spring to lay their eggs.

Museum staff and volunteers collect eggs and caterpillars from the outside host plants, and move them inside to the feeding cages found at the rear of the enclosure. There, we feed the caterpillars and keep them safe from predators until they are big enough to pupate. Once the adult butterflies hatch they are released inside the enclosure, where they can mate and lay eggs on their respective host-plant.