Butterfly House - Now Open!

Learn about the life cycle of our beautiful caterpillars, chrysalis, and butterflies!

Monarch Habitat

The Butterfly House at the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota expands on nature-based play with a seasonal exhibit where children and their families can immerse themselves in the beauty of native butterflies up close in their natural habitat. The enclosure is crafted with host and nectar plants that are specific and required for the complete lifecycle of Monarchs, Painted Ladies, and other pollinators. Monarchs are showcased and the vital role in which they play in our lives is highlighted through hands-on, child-lead activities. Children are able to interact directly with Monarchs throughout their entire life-cycle, starting from egg, hatching into tiny caterpillars and cycling into an adult butterfly.

Become a Citizen Scientist

by developing skills through the programming we offer.

Children become citizen scientists as they learn through play, ways to conserve and support pollinators in our local community. Through CMSM’s Pollinator Programming children are able to get up close with Monarch caterpillars, as they use a magnify glass and nature journal to observe, tally, and record their findings of the monarchs host plant of milkweed.

MLMP is a conservation program-activity where young guests can become citizen scientists as they help collect data that is used by Monarch Joint Venture and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum to determine patterns, trends, and success rates of larvae to adult butterfly based on the surrounding environment.

This program is designed as a child-led and hands-on experience on how to spot the Monarchs host plant of milkweed, how to check for microscopic eggs, turn each leaf over hoping to find a white, black, and yellow striped monarch caterpillar, spot a bright green pupa(chrysalis), and how many adult monarchs are fluttering by.

Young guests evolve into budding entomologists as they help tag, record, and release the monarch butterflies in the fall as this pollinator embarks on its annual long migration journey south to the Oyamel forests of Mexico for the winter months.
In the fall, Monarchs migrate to the Oyamel Fir Forest of Mexico-their overwintering grounds-where they stay for the winter before returning in the spring to lay eggs of the next summer generation. To conclude the butterfly season, CMSM offers a Monarch Tagging Event in September!
Guests are provided with the opportunity to tag (a small sticker with a specific alphanumeric tag code) an adult butterfly and release it from the enclosure to embark on its migration journey to Mexico.
Guests are provided with a tagging certificate with their specific monarch’s tagging code. Guest can then check their code on MonarchWatch.org database between the months of February to May to see if the monarch they tagged and released made it to Mexico!

The Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota is an established and certified Monarch Waystation through the conservation organization MonarchWatch.org. Our Prairie Gardens and Butterfly house are filled with a variety of nectar and host plants for Minnesota native butterflies. Having the Monarchs host plant of Milkweed is essential for a Monarch Waystation. Milkweed is the home for the Monarch, it provides a place for adult butterflies to lay their eggs, as well as, where the tiny caterpillars will devour the leaves as the grow. Your home garden can be a certified Monarch Waystation as well, follow the steps listed https://monarchwatch.org/waystations/

Seeds are available for purchase at the Museum Gift Shop. Harvested nectar plant seeds from CMSM’s beautiful Butterfly House, take home a pack to enjoy a piece of the museum in your home garden! Learn how to plant here. Seeds may include but not limited to; California Giant Zinnias, Cosmos, Coneflower, Marigolds, Wild Bergamot, Blazing Star, Mexican Sunflower, Daisy, New England Aster, Black-Eyed Susan, Giant Sunflower, Dwarf Zinnias

This exhibit is great for...

an immersive experience for the whole family!


Pollinators such as butterflies, bees, wasps, moths, beetles, hummingbirds, bats, and even the wind play a vital part in agricultural production and our environment. Without them, the human race and the earth’s ecosystems would not survive.

Host Plants

The plants that butterflies lay their eggs on are called host plants. These plants provide nourishment for the developing larvae and caterpillar. For Monarch butterflies, Milkweed is the only host plant.

Nectar Plants

The CMSM Butterfly House has a variety of nectar plants that are specific to the needs of monarchs. This includes Perennials such as Joe Pye Weed, New England Aster, Lilies, Purple Coneflower, Meadow Blazing Star, Coreopsis, Wild Bergamot, and Blanket Flower; and Annuals such as Marigold, Zinnia, Verbena, Lantana, and Cosmos.

Butterfly House Guided Tour Schedule

2024 July

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Support for the Butterfly House and the pollinator programming has been provided, in part, by grants and donations from Drummers Garden Center & Floral, the Minnesota Humanities Center and the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, and the Union Pacific Railroad Foundation.