Niagara Falls Butterfly Conservatory

Courtesy of The Niagara Parks Commission

The Niagara Falls Butterfly Conservatory is an attraction I always recommend to nature-lovers visiting Niagara Falls Canada. Tourists who don't venture beyond the main Falls area will miss it! It's only a 10-minute drive north on the Niagara Parkway, and this peaceful retreat to the tropics is a world away from the busy Falls area.

It features more than 2,000 butterflies and lots of great greenery and exotic flowers as well. Even without the surrounding Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, this little paradise packs a major punch of entertainment and learning for kids and adults alike.

I remember my delight on my first visit to the Niagara Falls Butterfly Conservatory a few years ago. I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. I thought the butterflies might be behind plexiglass or a net, the way birds are caged in many aviaries, but no! I was in for a surprise…

They are just flying all around inside a great greenhouse full of tropical plants, and as you walk through the space, you might even have some butterflies land right on you. You’ll certainly see them landing on flowers, trees, fruit plates and other visitors as you walk through. Talk about an interactive, natural space! It really does feel like you've arrived in a tropical jungle.

And speaking of the tropics… this place is hot hot hot.

A word of advice if you take your comfort seriously: as soon as you enter the building you should purchase your tickets and then if you’re wearing a coat, drop it off on one of the racks.

The greenhouse is maintained at a tropical rainforest temperature of 27 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit) and the humidity is high (75%), so you won’t want to be dragging a coat around. In summer or fall, the contrast from the outdoors isn't too bad, but if you're visiting in the winter (a great "mini tropical vacation", by the way), think "sticky"!

Your next step is to watch the 7-minute video about butterflies and the Niagara Falls Butterfly Conservatory. This will give you a short introduction to the insects and plants you’ll see here.

You can read some of the information panels too. This will explain things like where the butterflies that live here come from … (Answer: Many are imported from butterfly farms in tropical countries. About 40% are bred in a greenhouse behind the conservatory.)

Although your main purpose in visiting this attraction is probably just to enjoy the beauty of the butterflies and the greenery, the conservatory also offers a fun and easy way to take in a little learning too, for kids and adults alike.

Here you’ll learn about butterfly biology and the lives of these wonderful insects. For example, did you know what butterflies eat? The butterflies here eat nectar and pollen from plants, juices from decaying fruit and artificial nectar.

Look for the tropical fruit plates or dishes of honey and water in the branches of trees and you’ll usually see butterflies hanging out, sucking up their "liquid lunches".

They also like to drink from puddles of water on the path, so watch where you walk – you don’t want to step on one, especially since most butterflies have such short life spans already. Most only live between 2 and 3 weeks! Some species live only a few days, while others like the Monarchs can live up to 8 months.

Those Monarch butterflies are truly amazing. They're world travellers. They fly from North America to Mexico each year, travelling 4500 kilometers, or 2800 miles, in 6 weeks… the original Canadian “snow birds”.

Owl Butterfly
Courtesy of The Niagara Parks Commission

Everyone seems to have their favourite butterfly and with such a variety here (45 species) you’re sure to find your own special kind. I have two: the Blue Morpho (what a gorgeous colour!) and the Owl Butterfly (whose wings bear imprints that look like owl eyes --- clever camouflage, eh?). I can’t really choose between them.

The Butterly Conservatory is located in the middle of the gorgeous Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens so be sure to save time to explore the gardens while you're there.

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