History of the Butterfly House
CMSM has long supported Monarch butterflies in outdoor spaces, particularly the Prairie’s Edge Exploration Area. It was all but guaranteed to see dozens of butterflies fluttering around the prairie grasses and flowers throughout July and August – much to the delight of our youngest visitors! Thanks to the generous support of the newly-founded Ignite Society, the Butterfly House was added to the CMSM grounds in 2021. The Butterfly House became an instant favorite among visitors young and old!
The Importance of Pollinators
Pollinators like Monarch butterflies play a vital role in agricultural production and our natural environment as a whole. Pollinators improve the health of both soil and water, creating an optimal environment for growing plants.
In addition, approximately 80% of crops from around the world require pollination by animals such as butterflies, bees, wasps, hummingbirds, and bats. Without pollinators, the human race and the earth’s ecosystems would not survive.
Host & Nectar Plants
The plants that the butterfly lays its eggs on and provides nourishment for the developing larvae/caterpillar are called host plants. For monarch butterflies, milkweed is the only host plant. The gardens at the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota have three milkweed varieties: marsh milkweed, prairie milkweed, and butterfly milkweed.
Nectar plants feed the pollinators and provide them with the nourishment they need for their next stage in life. CMSM has a variety of nectar plants in the Butterfly House that are specific to the needs of monarchs. Most of these plants are perennials (plants that live year after year) but some are annuals (must be planted new each year).
- Perennials: Joe Pye Weed, New England Aster, Oriental Lilies, Purple Coneflower, Liatris (Meadow Blazing Star), Coreopsis, Wild Bergamot, Blanket Flower
- Annuals: Marigold, Zinnia, Verbena, Lantana, Cosmos
Why a “Butterfly House”?
If you’ve noticed fewer butterflies in recent years, it’s not your imagination. Monarch butterflies, bees, and other pollinators have been rapidly decreasing in population in recent years. In particular, Monarchs have decreased by as much as 80% since the 1990s! There are many reasons for this – climate change, pesticide use, and habitat destruction to name a few. The negative effects can be catastrophic. A Butterfly House works to combat this by providing protection from natural elements as well as predators looking for their next meal. This shelter gives monarch butterflies a fighting chance to complete the migration journey and continue their important role in pollinating our natural world.
Visit the Butterfly House at the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota
The Butterfly will open for the season at 9am on Tuesday, June 21. Guided tours are available on the following schedule, with additional tour hours to be added in mid-July:
- Tuesdays, 10am-12pm
- Thursdays, 4-6pm
- Saturdays, 1-3pm