A Travel Guide to Key West’s Magical Butterfly & Nature Conservatory

No Key West trip is complete without a visit to the Key West Butterfly Conservatory! As you enter this lush tropical paradise filled with 50-60 different butterfly species and hundreds of individual butterflies, prepare to be amazed by the sheer beauty and diversity found within.

History and Background

The Key West Butterfly Conservatory first opened its doors in 2003 and has been dazzling visitors ever since. This labor of love was the brainchild of local Key West residents  George Fernandez and Sam Trophia, who wanted to provide an interactive, educational experience allowing people to connect with nature. After much planning and construction, the conservatory was built to mimic the butterflies’ natural habitat as closely as possible.

They carefully recreated a tropical ecosystem containing the plants, trees, flowers, and water sources a butterfly needs to survive. With ideal warmer temperatures between 70-85 degrees, higher humidity, and sunlight streaming through the glass roof, the conservatory gives butterflies the opportunity to live year-round, not just seasonally. Thanks to these meticulously cultivated conditions, the resident butterflies are active, healthy, and flap about freely just as they would in the wild.

What You Can See

As you wander along the pebbled pathways through lush vegetation and flowering plants, you’ll be surrounded by butterflies of all shapes, sizes and colors. The conservatory houses over 60 butterfly species either native to or migratory through Florida. Some species you may spot include:

– Zebra Longwing: Florida’s state butterfly with distinctive black and white striped wings. They love feeding on lantana and firebush plants.
– Giant Swallowtail: One of the largest butterflies in North America, identified by yellow and black wings with “tails.”
– Blue Morphos: Tropical butterflies that fly up from Central America and flash their bright iridescent blue wings.
– Monarchs: Perhaps the most recognizable orange and black butterfly that makes an epic multi-generational migration to Mexico.
– Julia Butterflies: Keep an eye out for these flashy numbers named after Julia, daughter of the entomologist who discovered them.
– Gulf Fritillary: Colors of orange and brown resemble passion flowers, their favorite host plant.

The diversity seems endless! But no matter how long you linger, you’ll likely not spot all 60+ species in one visit. The variety shifts with migrations, seasonal changes, and the life span of each butterfly. Expect to be delighted by a new set every time.

Unique Features

One of the most unique aspects of the Key West Butterfly Conservatory is the large colony of North American Monarchs on site. As a key overwintering destination for migrating Monarchs, the conservatory has a specialized caterpillar nursery to nurture new generations and boost the struggling wild population.

Be sure to check out the empty Monarch chrysalides hanging in the “Butterfly Life Cycle” exhibit. Nearby, you can also spot wild chrysalides attached to plants throughout the pathways, waiting to emerge. Watch closely and you might witness a butterfly exiting its pupal case!

Another highlight is the cinema featuring an 11-minute educational video titled “Flight of the Butterflies.” Shown upon entry, this fascinating documentary follows real Monarch butterflies and scientists during their unbelievable multi-generational migration to Mexico. Definitely don’t miss this feature!

Tips for Your Visit

To make the most of your visit to the Key West Butterfly Conservatory, keep these tips in mind:

– Arrive early. The butterflies are most active in the warmer morning temperatures.
– Dress for a tropical greenhouse. Shorts and breathable clothing work best.
– Don’t wear strong perfumes or scents. This may disrupt the butterflies.
– Walk slowly and pause often. Quick movements can startle butterflies.
– Look all around from eye level down to ground plants. Butterflies hang everywhere.
– Capture plenty of photos but avoid using flash. This stresses butterflies.
– Check the nursery for brand new Monarch releases if you’re lucky!
– Relax and linger in the outdoor nectar flower garden before exiting through the gift shop.

We hope these tips help you make the most of your magical encounter wandering among free roaming butterflies in our Key West tropical paradise! Please spread your wings and stay as long as you’d like. The only rule is to enjoy the splendor and reconnect with nature. Welcome home, butterflies and visitors alike!

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about visiting the Key West Butterfly Conservatory:

How much are tickets?

Standard ticket prices are(at the time of writing this article, please check with their website for additional information):
Adults (13+ yrs) – $15.50
Seniors (65+ yrs) – $14.50
Children (4-12 yrs) – $12.50
Kids under 4 are free.
You can purchase tickets onsite or online in advance. Discounted tickets may be available via certain package deals.

When are they open?

The conservatory is open daily from 9AM to 5PM with the last ticket sold at 4:30PM. They are open 365 days per year but may have earlier closing hours on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Where are they located?

They are conveniently located at 1316 Duval Street right next to the Southernmost Point buoy marker. Parking is available at nearby street parking lots and garages. Rideshares, taxis, bikes and walking are easy alternatives.

Are strollers and wheelchairs ok?

Yes! They have wheelchair accessibility and paved paths suitable for strollers throughout the gardens.

Can I take photos?

Yes, photography and videography is welcomed and encouraged! They only ask that you do not use flash and avoid disrupting butterflies with extensive equipment set ups. Please tag them @keywestbutterflies on social media!

Are there interactive activities?

Along with our cinema, nursery viewing area, and life cycle exhibit, they also have nectar feeding stations visitors can participate in. Our educators love showing off specimens from the bug museum and answering questions from curious kids young and old. Feel free to interact with them or ask about seeing the caterpillar hatchery in action!

We know you’ll have an absolutely magical experience at the Key West Butterfly Conservatory. Wander through a real-life tropical paradise as unique winged creatures flutter freely all around you. With helpful travel tips and insider info above, you’ll be prepared to enjoy this world-class attraction highlighting the dazzling diversity and epic migrations of butterflies. From passionate founders to enthusiastic visitors like you, the Key West Butterfly Conservatory belongs to all who respect Nature’s delicate and resilient beauty.

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