Callaway Gardens (Part III): Flights of Fancy

A more recent addition to Callaway Gardens is the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center. This 4.5 acre, octagonal shaped conservatory was opened in 1988. It has a 12-foot waterfall and pool which was designed to recreate the atmosphere of a rain forest. The interior of the conservatory is a constant 84 degrees Fahrenheit with 70% humidity.

Photo courtesy of Callaway Gardens
This is one of North America's largest glass-enclosed tropical butterfly conservatories. There are over 1,000 butterflies representing 50 different species. It is an amazing place to get up close to the butterflies.

Before entering the main part of the conservatory the public is educated on the life cycle of the butterfly as well as the differences between moths and butterflies.

Antennaerounded clubs on the endsthin or often feathery
Bodythin and smooththick and fuzzy
Activeduring the dayduring the night
Pupal Stagechrysaliscocoon
Wingsheld vertically when restingheld flat against body when resting

About 30% of the butterflies are produced in-house. The rest come from butterfly farms in the tropical rain forests of Malaysia, the Philippines and Central and South America.

The chrysalis hang in small rooms with a glass front for the public to view. They are attached to Styrofoam looking sheets with a large pin. There they hang until the butterflies are ready to break free.

Some chrysalis resemble shriveled leaves which would provide camouflage during the butterfly's metamorphosis while others are brightly colored to blend in with tropical plants. Do you see the metallic gold group on the left side? I wonder which tropical plant they blend in to?

I wish I could tell you what type of butterflies came out of each type of chrysalis but they were simply marked with numbers.

Some of the chrysalis are really large. A few of them were even starting to quiver and shake...

This butterfly was starting to break the chrysalis open right before our eyes.

Once the butterfly has wriggled out it begins to pump blood into its wings to help them to dry out and expand. This doesn't take long and when its wings are dry the butterfly is ready to fly away and search for food.

Once we had gawked sufficiently at this miracle of metamorphosis we entered into the tropical area where we were engrossed with flutters of butterflies in flight. If you stood still long enough you could end up with a butterfly on your shoulder. Here is a sampling of the tropical beauties we saw.

Butterflies enjoy drinking the juice of fruits. Throughout the butterfly house were feeding stations made from shallow bird baths. These were randomly placed in locations where people could closely sit and observe the butterflies in action. 

Look closely at the photo above and you will see the proboscis (butterfly's tongue) between its two front legs. It is hollow and the butterfly uses it like a straw to drink the juice from the orange.

Around the outside of the conservatory are gardens that have been planted to attract the native butterflies. Callaway claims that people can watch up to 75 species of native butterflies during the warmer months.These gardens show the public what types of plants butterflies are attracted to and host plants where they lay their eggs and the caterpillars eat. The purpose is to encourage people to incorporate some of these plants in their own gardens.

This was an amazing experience as I do love butterflies. It was hard to get myself to leave but there was more to explore. On our walk through the woods from the Butterfly House to our next destination, Birds of Prey, we saw this beautiful Luna Moth at the base of a pine tree. We were as excited to see this beautiful moth as we were being surrounded by gorgeous butterflies.

Please return for my last post on Callaway Gardens where I will share my experience with the Birds of Prey.


  1. Wow - how fascinating. I am thinking I need to make a trip! Thanks for sharing - truly amazing.

  2. I really am bookmarking this info, especially the chart showing the difference. You have really wonderful images too. That white/silvery butterfly is gorgeous.

  3. The picture of call way conservatory is nice. The shape and designing of that conservatory is really impressive. I like to make my new home with same idea. It gives fresh air, sun light and also save energy.


  4. now that is some eye all the butterflies

  5. What a beautiful glasshouse, a suitable setting for its inhabitants. Wonderful to actually see a butterfly emerge like that, something I've not witnessed since I was a child.

  6. Beautiful photos Karin! I love the idea of garden plantings to show people what butterflies like. Sounds like a great place to spend the day.

  7. Fascinating and beautiful! I've never been in such a big conservatory...need to put that on my bucket list!

  8. I have been to the butterfly house at the Aquarium in Chattanooga. It was an awesome experience so I can feel your excitement with this post. I recall some of the same butterflies you show today! I do think that Calloway has more educational aspect though. I so need to get down there to check out this place…

  9. I am in heaven...with so many beautiful butterfly photos. Simply breathtaking!


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One of my favorite things about blogging is the conversation with readers. Leave a comment and let's get talking. ~Karin

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