Type of place
Habitat
Area
Orange zone
Status
Open

Butterflies at the Zoo

Walking through a giant caterpillar,  become immersed into a world of amazing and beautiful butterflies and moths from around the globe. Lose yourself in the rich variety of species as they delicately flutter around you, seeking out plants on which to feed and rest.

Our Butterfly Paradise habitat show cases species from around the world. Visitors can learn more about the conservation of this diverse insect group, from species recovery programmes, community-based habitat protection initiatives and climate change issues.

In 1981 we created the first exhibit developed exclusively for invertebrates. It featured mainly butterflies and moths - making it the world's first butterfly house!

Designed to resemble a giant caterpillar, Butterfly Paradise is a walk-through tropical haven, carefully planted and heated to a balmy 27 degrees to provide the perfect habitat for the beautiful invertebrates, which fly freely overhead in the exotic environment.

Butterfly close up showing body, legs, wings and antennae
© ZSL
Postman butterfly on a flower at London Zoo
© ZSL

Experience the 'walk through'

Butterfly Paradise itself was launched in May 2006 and it showcases a vast array of butterfly species in a carefully created ‘walk though’ environment, offering visitors the opportunity to learn more about life cycles, biodiversity and climate change.

Hundreds of butterflies have been chosen to represent some of the 100,000 species that exist on the planet. All butterflies are forest-species from the shrinking tropics of South-East Asia, Central and South America and East Africa.

One of the most interesting aspects of Butterfly Paradise is the ever changing environment that is obvious not only in the development of the flora and fauna, but also in that it illustrates the entire lifecycle of a butterfly.

Alongside the free flying butterflies in the exhibit, there is also a pupae holding room where visitors can see a vast array of beautiful pupae develop and butterflies eventually emerge. We breeds some species, but most do arrive as pupae, from butterfly farms in native areas. It gives community business a sustainable income that does not do further damage to the forests.

Highlights to look out for include tiny butterfly eggs, giant caterpillars and butterfly feeding stations.

Butterfly at the Zoo
© ZSL
Postman butterfly wings closed on a leaf
© Shutterstock

Tropical plants at the Zoo

The plants within Butterfly Paradise took a lot of careful planning as they provide not only a beautiful backdrop to this amazing experience but, more importantly, both nectar and breeding areas for the butterfly and larvae.

In order to get the planting just right the Invertebrate team worked very closely with the Horticultural department at ZSL, who not only supplied a vast amount of specialist knowledge about how plants interact with butterflies, but also did all the actual sourcing and storage until the exhibit was ready for planting.

One of the most interesting aspects of Butterfly Paradise is the ever changing environment that is obvious not only in the development of the flora and fauna, but also in that it illustrates the entire life cycle of a butterfly. With each visit to Butterfly Paradise you are sure to see an ever changing backdrop of plants as they grow and develop.

Insects & invertebrates at the Zoo

  • Postman butterfly wings closed on a leaf
    Heliconius melpomene

    Postman butterfly

    This poisonous Mexican butterfly stores the toxins it eats as a caterpillar as protection from predators.

  • Desert locust swarm feeding on corn
    Schistocerca gregaria

    Desert locust

    A large swarm can eat up to 1.8 million metric tons of plants, equivalent to enough food to feed 81 million people. 

  • Leafcutter ant carrying flower
    Atta cephalotes

    Leafcutter ant

    They can carry up to 50 times their own body weight and collect leaves to provide food for the fungus they farm.

  • Emperor scorpion at London Zoo
    Pandinus imperator

    Emperor scorpion

    One of the largest scorpions in the world, and they carry their young on it's backs when they are born.

  • Tiny Giants logo, with a clownfish, locust, coral and praying mantis illustration.
    From minibeasts to coral reefs

    Tiny Giants

    Journey through the habitats of the planet’s smallest but mightiest animals. From our coral reef aquarium, to our spider walk-through.

  • Our animals