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Cockrell Butterfly Center: Houston Museum of Natural Science

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Photo of a butterfly in the Cockrell Butterfly Center

Photo of a butterfly in the Cockrell Butterfly Center

Looking for Butterflies in Houston, Texas

Houston, Texas, has a mild climate where one can see butterflies year-round. This is especially true if one has planted vegetation that attracts them. But where does one go to see exotic butterflies galore from all around the world in one place? The Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Museum of Natural History in Hermann Park is the answer. The address is 5555 Hermann Park Dr., Houston, Texas 77030.

We have taken many family members and friends to that attraction if they were visiting us here in Houston. No matter what the weather is doing outside, inside the Cockrell Butterfly Center, it is always the same. Think tropical rainforest, and you have the idea.


Houston Museum of Natural Science

The Museum is located on the northern edge of Hermann Park. Hermann Park has so much to offer, including the Houston Zoo, the Japanese Garden, Miller Outdoor Theater, a Rose and Herb Garden, and more.


Cockrell Butterfly Center

The Cockrell Butterfly Center was an excellent addition to the existing Houston Museum of Natural Science. It opened its doors for the first time in 1994.

It consists of a three-story glass enclosure seventy feet in height. The butterfly center provides a walk-through exhibit space where people can commune with free-flying butterflies from all around the world.

My mother inside the Cockrell Butterfly Center

My mother inside the Cockrell Butterfly Center


The humid environment is kept around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If wearing colorful clothing, do not be surprised if a butterfly suddenly decides to alight upon one. Sometimes other people are the first to notice. After all, a butterfly's slight weight would hardly alert one as to its presence if not in one's immediate line of sight.

Children and adults alike always seem thrilled to see these colorful winged insects sit for a spell upon one's shoulders, arms, hands, hair, and other body parts. Seldom does it last long, but many a smile has occurred. If lucky and fast with taking photos, these butterfly landings can sometimes be captured for a long time, visual remembrances of a visit here.

Cantelope & other fruits provided inside the dome for the butterflies.

Cantelope & other fruits provided inside the dome for the butterflies.

Attracting Butterflies

Once hatched from their chrysalis state, the butterflies fly freely throughout the ample space.

Feeding stations are placed just off the pathways. Tourists can easily see the winged insects taking in sustenance. Bits of fruit or sponges soaked with nutrients are anchored to the ground or even tied and suspended from plant life within the dome.

Indigenous, as well as exotic plants that attract butterflies, are incorporated into this unique environment. Getting to see beautiful blooming varieties of plants also adds to the enjoyment of visiting the Cockrell Butterfly Center. If one is inspired to attract butterflies to one's personal garden, this is one place where one can easily see what works concerning that goal.

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Life Stages of a Butterfly

If one aspired to see each type of butterfly found in the Cockrell Butterfly Center in the butterfly's natural habitat, one would have to travel the world. Each week about one thousand butterflies are imported from countries around the world in their chrysalis or pupae stage.

There are four stages in the development of a butterfly.

  1. Eggs: Many are laid upon leaves and plants that eventually provide nourishment to the next stage, which is the...
  2. Larva AKA Caterpillars: And they do eat! They can literally strip a plant of leaves (as they have done to some tomato plants in our personal garden in a small amount of time.) But that is their job which provides much-needed nourishment to the next stage which is...
  3. Pupa AKA Chrysalis Stage: Which is the cocoon in which over time the fully developed...
  4. Adult: The butterfly emerges
Butterflies emerging from their cocoons

Butterflies emerging from their cocoons


The photo above shows the glass-enclosed case where the pupae (cocoons) reside until the adult butterfly emerges. Once a butterfly emerges, it takes a while to "harden" its wings and eventually use them for flying.

There are exits from this case whereby the adult butterflies gain access to the three-story enclosed tropical space which will be their home for the rest of their life cycle.

The museum maintains about 2,000 butterflies in various stages of development at all times. This is to ensure a steady supply of beauteous winged insects colorfully punctuating the rain forest atmosphere at any and all times that people may desire to visit this space.

In addition to a waterfall, people will find an abundance of vegetation consisting of tropical trees, shrubs, and flowering plants inside the Cockrell Butterfly Center. These include some of the following: palms, orchids, ferns, bromeliads, ginger, and too many others to enumerate.

Two photos pieced together showing a portion of the Cockrell Butterfly Center.

Two photos pieced together showing a portion of the Cockrell Butterfly Center.

Spend Some Time

Be sure to dress appropriately for this warm and humid environment. Plan some time to admire the plantings as well as the fluttering of butterflies. Some of the butterflies have almost transparent wings.

Benches are worked into the landscape. This is an exhibit where it pays to slow down and take one's time for the full enjoyment of what is on display. One could easily spend anywhere from 45 minutes to 1½ hours if desired.

The video below shows many of the blooming plants inside the Cockrell Butterfly Center.

More to See!

When leaving the butterfly area, one passes through space with mirrors to make sure that one of these winged insects is not trying to hitch a ride to the outside.

One is then introduced to an exhibit of the most dazzling colors of mounted beetles from around the world. There are also some other insects, some of which are alive. The iridescence of those polychromatic beetles is absolutely amazing. You will have entered the Brown Hall of Entomology at this point in your visit to the museum. Learning about the insect world and how humans benefit from their existence is a side benefit from going to enjoy the butterfly center.

Obviously, there is much more to the Houston Museum of Natural Science building than just the butterfly center.

A person can spend time exploring the four floors showcasing different items of interest. They include everything from dinosaurs to gems and more. You may wish to take in a Planetarium show, or an IMAX show. Some of the world-class traveling exhibits that pass through these doors are stellar!

The video below shows more of the butterflies in the Cockrell Butterfly Center and some of the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Click on the link below to find out the address, hours of operation, and prices for the Cockrell Butterfly Center in the Houston Museum of Natural Science. I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Peggy Woods

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