Butterflies, with their colorful wings and intricate patterns, may be the world's most popular insects. At the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, visitors can get a close-up view of the flying creatures in a summertime exhibit that runs through early September. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan stopped by to get a look at the museum's Pavilion of Wings.
In this enclosed natural space, you can see hundreds of butterflies, if you look closely.
Brent Karner is the museum's associate manager of entomological exhibits, but people call him the Bug Guy. Karner runs the exhibit.
"It really capitalizes on the idea of using some of the prettier insects that aren't usually kept in small cages, giving them a lot of room to fly around in, but letting people come in and experience right with them," he said. "So you're walking in the cage with them, and it's a very popular draw."
He says butterflies may look good to humans, but they are still bugs. They are just pretty, flying members of the insect world.
"They end up being the spokesbugs for all the other bugs we have here, from beetles to cockroaches that people don't like as much," he said. "But that's what makes this such a special place. People think butterflies are pretty, that they're gentle. They associate them with things angelic, you name it, so butterflies are well received."
Part of the fascination is the butterfly's life cycle. From egg to caterpillar, to pupa and butterfly, the lifespan varies by species, but is usually about one year. The insect spends just a few weeks as a butterfly.
Inside the museum, visitors can see other insects, from tarantulas to roaches, but Karner says they are all part of the same natural environment. He adds that butterflies, which are more visible, are good indicators of the environment's health.
"One of the comments I get from a lot of visitors coming to the museum is how come I don't see all the butterflies I used to see while I was a kid? And one of the reasons is the same thing that's affecting all the other animals out there right now," noted Karner. "It's all this habitat destruction, getting rid of all these natural zones, getting rid of all the spaces and the plants and the other animals that they need to survive. And the butterfly can be a good model for that because people care about the butterflies."
It is easy to see, in this display, how butterflies earned the nickname "flying flowers." More than 30 species of the colorful insect are on display at the museum's special pavilion.