• blue morpho butterfly

    A blue morpho butterfly flies through the solarium at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. The species, along with dozens of others, is part of a new exhibit, Butterflies in Flight, which lets visitors mingle up close with the insects. (Photo: Aaron Kylie/Canadian Geographic)

The blue morpho is in Ottawa. No, it’s not some superhero or archvillain. Rather, the impressively large, iridescent blue butterfly native to Costa Rica is one of dozens of species of tropical butterflies visitors can see up live and up close at the new Butterflies in Flight exhibit, on now through April 2018 at the Canadian Museum of Nature.

“Butterflies are popular insects, especially because of their delicate beauty,” says Meg Beckel, the museum’s president and CEO. “With this show, our visitors have a chance to get up close to many species of tropical butterflies and learn about their importance as pollinators.”

The main attraction of the exhibit, presented by Essential Costa Rica, is housed in the museum’s solarium, where live butterfly species flutter everywhere — even the floor, so watch your step. Entry to the solarium costs an additional $5 with museum admission and is time-ticketed so visitors don’t have to line up. Visitors are encouraged to wear bright colours to attract the butterflies, and museum research scientist Robert Anderson says the insects are most active around 10 and 11 a.m., particularly on sunny days.

The museum's solarium is home to the new Butterflies in Flight exhibit. (Photo: Aaron Kylie/Canadian Geographic)

An introductory area includes information about butterfly metamorphosis, pollination, anatomy, flight mechanics and conservation. Visitors can also view pupae, emerging and newly emerged butterflies in the Animal Care room, or try their hand at folding butterfly origami. 

In conjunction with Butterflies in Flight, the museum is launching a new 3D movie, Amazon Adventure, about 19th-century explorer and naturalist Henry Bates’ 11 years spent studying wildlife in the great rainforest. The film is being screened with a new 4K laser projector that the museum says offers the crispest 3D available — but the 4D live butterflies are sure to steal the show.