Visitors to the Chicago Botanic Garden can often spot butterflies fluttering around the grounds, but now you can see 500 of the insects under one roof at the new "Butterflies & Blooms" exhibit.
The 2,800-square-foot mesh tent is home to 30 species of butterflies from around the world. Visitors can pick up interpretive cards that identify different butterfly species, which can double as a game for families challenging their kids to spot them all.
"Butterflies & Blooms"Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake-Cook Road, Glencoe, (847) 835-5440, chicagobotanic.org
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Sept. 3
Admission: $5; $3 for kids ages 3-12
The space will also be staffed by volunteers who can answer visitors questions.
"Butterflies are pollinators," said Harriet Resnick, vice president of visitor events and programs. "It really fits into our mission to have the butterflies here in this immersive experience. We really think that by being in here, kids and adults will learn more about butterflies."
The space is filled with the butterflies' favorite sugary foods: trays of overripe fruit, sponges soaked in Gatorade and more than 600 flowering plants.
"These are all plants that will grow in this climate, so you can create a butterfly garden at home with the hope of attracting native butterflies," Resnick said.
The insects typically only live two to four weeks, so the exhibit is constantly being repopulated through the pupa emergence room, a space where visitors can see stages of chrysalis development leading up to the new butterflies drying off their wings. The pupa are arranged in labeled rows, so both adults and young children have easy views. Staff will be releasing the new butterflies daily.
Resnick said the exhibit also has been unintentionally getting new additions.
"Some of the native butterflies sense what's going on in there and want in," she said.
"Butterflies & Blooms" opened June 2 along with the Children's Growing Garden on the Learning Campus, an area of the grounds typically only visited by people taking classes.
"Many of our visitors don't know this exists," said media relations manager Julie McCaffrey of the growing garden. "This creates a destination for children and families."
The botanic garden's 25th garden took nine months to complete. It gives kids a chance to see what their food looks like before they land at the grocery store or on their plates.
Low rows are planted with a variety of fruits, herbs and vegetables, which are harvested and sold at farmers markets in low-income communities.
Geared toward children ages 2 to 10, the space features signs that discuss wind, solar and water power and how animals help plants. The space also doubles as a classroom, with free hands-on drop in activities on everything from seeds to worm composting offered every Saturday and Sunday through September.