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Lepidopterarium: The world of moths

What is a Lepidopterarium

A lepidopterarium is a magical world within a zoo, specifically designed to house and showcase a colourful collection of butterflies and moths. Many Europe zoos boast enchanting lepidopterariums, inviting visitors on a delightful journey of discovery and learning. From the fluttering wings in London to the vibrant habitats in Madrid, the lepidopterariums in Europe’s zoos are an enthralling sight to behold and a must-visit for every nature lover.

European Zoos that have Lepidopterarium

London Zoo

London Zoo, one of the oldest and most respected zoos in Europe, is home to a magnificent lepidopterarium. The butterfly house, as it is affectionately known, provides a habitat for a variety of species from around the world. Visitors can stroll through this lush, tropical environment, feeling the gentle brush of wings as the butterflies flit around them. The lepidopterarium offers insight into the life cycle of these captivating creatures, from egg to caterpillar, chrysalis, and finally, butterfly.

Madrid Zoo

Moving on to sunny Spain, Madrid Zoo is another must-visit for butterfly enthusiasts. The lepidopterarium here is a kaleidoscope of colours, with many species of butterflies and moths coexisting harmoniously. Visitors have the opportunity to experience the magic of metamorphosis in real-time, as groups of caterpillars transform into beautiful butterflies in the dedicated breeding area.

Antwerp Zoo

Belgium’s Antwerp Zoo, one of the oldest in the world, has an incredible lepidopterarium that leaves visitors spellbound. This butterfly pavilion is a warm, balmy haven that simulates a tropical environment. Exotic plants thrive within, providing nourishment and habitat for numerous butterfly species. The sheer variety of these delicate creatures, each sporting different patterns and hues, is truly a feast for the eyes.

Vienna Zoo

Meanwhile, Austria’s Vienna Zoo, the world’s oldest continuously operating zoo, boasts an equally stunning lepidopterarium. The butterfly house is nestled within a beautifully preserved Art Nouveau palm house. Visitors are immersed in a tropical rainforest environment teeming with free-flying butterflies. The lepidopterarium’s humid, lush setting is ideal for these insects, contributing to a rich diversity of species.

The Lepidopterarium at Stuttgart Zoo

Germany’s Stuttgart Zoo, better known as Wilhelma, also hosts an impressive lepidopterarium. The butterfly hall encapsulates an authentic rainforest ecosystem, complete with waterfalls and exotic plants. The meticulously maintained environment allows visitors to observe butterflies as they flit around, perch on flowers, and sometimes even land on visitors!

Why Visit a Lepidopterarium?

Lepidopterariums offer an intimate look into the lives of some of the most fascinating creatures on the planet. They are a testament to the wonders of the natural world and a reminder to preserve and respect biodiversity. Whether you’re an avid lepidopterist or a curious visitor, a trip to the lepidopterarium promises to be a memorable adventure. These habitats not only offer an educational experience but also a chance to simply immerse oneself in the serenity of nature.

Which European Zoo has the largest Lepidopterarium?

The largest lepidopterarium in Europe resides in Chester Zoo, England. This enormous butterfly house is home to countless species and is a spectacle of colour and life. Walking through the lepidopterarium feels like stepping into another world where time slows down and nature’s beauty is amplified.

The gentle fluttering of countless butterflies, each with their unique colours and patterns, creates an unforgettable experience for visitors of all ages. It’s a testament to the zoo’s commitment to conservation and education, showing visitors first-hand the importance of these amazing insects to our world’s ecosystems.

What type of animals a Lepidopterarium has


A lepidopterarium, while primarily known for its butterfly and moth inhabitants, can also be home to a few other creatures. These additional species are typically ones that exist naturally within the same habitats as butterflies and moths, and contribute to creating a more diverse and realistic ecosystem within the lepidopterarium.


The stars of the lepidopterarium are, of course, the butterflies. These stunning creatures come in a massive variety of shapes, sizes, and colours. They are usually the most numerous inhabitants of the lepidopterarium and are the main draw for visitors. The beauty and delicacy of their wings, combined with the tranquil nature of their flight, create an atmosphere of peace and enchantment.


Moths are often overlooked in favour of their more colourful cousins, butterflies. However, they are just as integral to the lepidopterarium habitat. Moths usually come out at night making them a fantastic attraction for evening visitors. Their fascinating life cycle from caterpillar to moth is a captivating process to observe.

Other Insects

In order to create a balanced ecosystem, many lepidopterariums also house other insects such as beetles, ants, and bees. These creatures play crucial roles in pollination and decomposition, helping to maintain the health and diversity of the lepidopterarium’s flora.


Some larger lepidopterariums may even house small species of birds. These feathered friends coexist harmoniously with the butterflies, contributing to the overall balance of the ecosystem. They are especially common in open-air lepidopterariums where they can enjoy free flight.


Though not animals, the flora within a lepidopterarium is essential to its functionality. Lush vegetation provides much-needed food and habitat for the butterflies, moths, and other creatures. You’ll often see a variety of native and exotic plants, all carefully chosen to offer the best possible nourishment and environment for the lepidopterarium’s inhabitants.

Visiting a lepidopterarium is like stepping into a miniature world, teeming with a diverse array of life. The beauty and tranquility of these locations make them a must-see for any nature lover or curious explorer.

What you should see

Observing the Life Cycle

One of the key fascinations of a lepidopterarium is the opportunity to observe the life cycle of butterflies and moths in real time. You’ll be able to see caterpillars munching on leaves, pupae hanging delicately from branches, and adult butterflies emerging from their chrysalises. This transformative process, from caterpillar to butterfly, is not only visually stunning but also highly educational.

Captivating Colours and Patterns

A walk through the lepidopterarium is a visual feast. Each butterfly species presents a unique combination of colours and patterns on their wings. From the intricate designs of the Morpho butterflies, to the striking black and yellow stripes of the Monarch, you’ll be endlessly captivated by their beauty. Take the time to appreciate the delicate artistry of nature that each butterfly represents.

Interactions with Butterflies

Most lepidopterariums allow the butterflies to fly freely, creating an immersive experience. It’s not uncommon for these gentle creatures to land on visitors. However, remember to handle them with utmost care if they do. Butterflies are delicate and can be easily harmed. It’s best to let them perch on you and refrain from touching their wings.

Night-time Wonder with Moths

If your visit extends into the evening, you’ll witness the nocturnal wonders of the lepidopterarium. The moths take centre stage, coming out to feed and fly. These creatures may not be as brightly coloured as their butterfly counterparts, but their subtle beauty and fascinating behaviour make them equally interesting to watch.

Flora Exploration

While the butterflies and moths are the main attractions, the plants within a lepidopterarium deserve attention too. You’ll find a mixture of local and exotic flora, all chosen for the specific purpose of supporting the life within the lepidopterarium. The plants provide food for caterpillars and nectar for the adult butterflies. They also create a lush, serene environment that enhances the overall experience.

Visiting a lepidopterarium is an unforgettable experience, filled with natural beauty and peaceful serenity. It’s a chance to marvel at the fascinating life cycles, stunning colours and patterns, and harmonious ecosystem that unfolds within its walls.

What is the environment

Temperature and Humidity

The environment within a lepidopterarium is carefully controlled to mimic the natural habitats of butterflies and moths. The temperature is typically maintained at a warm, tropical level, as most butterflies prefer a warm climate. The humidity is also kept high, as this is beneficial for the butterflies’ wings and encourages the growth of the plants within the ecosystem.

Lighting and Space

Lighting is another key factor in the environment of a lepidopterarium. Natural sunlight is preferred, as it helps the butterflies maintain their biological clocks, and is also necessary for the growth of the plants. The space within a lepidopterarium is designed to be airy and open, allowing the butterflies ample room to fly freely.

Special Features

Some lepidopterariums may also feature elements like waterfalls, ponds, or streams, not only for aesthetic appeal but also because butterflies are attracted to damp, muddy areas for a behaviour known as ‘puddling’. This behaviour involves drawing nutrients from the moist area, which are beneficial for reproduction.

Night-time Environment

At night, the environment changes to accommodate the moths. The lighting is dimmed and the temperature may be adjusted slightly. This shift in conditions allows visitors to witness the nocturnal behaviour of the moths, adding another layer of intrigue to the experience of visiting a lepidopterarium.

Human Interaction

The environment is also designed with human visitors in mind. Paths are created to guide visitors through the enclosure whilst causing minimal disturbance to the inhabitants. Information boards are placed throughout to educate visitors about the different species they encounter and the important conservation work being carried out.

A lepidopterarium is an example of a carefully balanced ecosystem that prioritizes the needs of its inhabitants whilst offering an immersive, educational experience for visitors. It’s a testament to the commitment of zoos to not only conserving species but also educating the public about their importance. Visiting a lepidopterarium allows you to step into a different world, filled with fluttering wings, delicate plants, and the peaceful sounds of nature.

lepidopterarium butterfly on a flower

Is Lepidopterarium a safe environment for the animals?

Safety and Well-being of the Animals

The safety and well-being of the animals is a top priority in a lepidopterarium. This is reflected in all aspects of the environment, from the controlled temperature and humidity, to the selection of flora, and even the visitor restrictions in place. Every detail is carefully considered to ensure a safe, suitable habitat for the butterflies and moths.

Veterinary Care

Regular check-ups by specialist vets are a key aspect of ensuring the health of the butterflies and moths. Any signs of disease or distress are promptly addressed. Furthermore, lepidopterariums often collaborate with entomologists and other specialists to ensure the best possible care for their winged residents.

Breeding Programmes

Breeding programmes are commonly implemented in lepidopterariums. These not only help to maintain a healthy population within the lepidopterarium, but also contribute towards the conservation of species that may be endangered in the wild. Breeding in a controlled environment reduces the risks posed by predators and habitat destruction.

Dietary Needs

The dietary needs of the butterflies and moths are carefully catered for in a lepidopterarium. A variety of plants are grown to provide food for the caterpillars and nectar for the adult butterflies. In some cases, additional food sources may be provided to ensure a balanced diet.

Protection from Predators

In a lepidopterarium, butterflies and moths are protected from the predators that would otherwise be a threat in their natural habitat. The controlled environment allows these delicate creatures to thrive without the fear of predation.

Visitor Guidelines

Visitor guidelines are strictly enforced to ensure the safety of the butterflies and moths. Handling of the butterflies is usually discouraged or prohibited, and visitors are asked to keep noise to a minimum to avoid causing distress.

In conclusion, a lepidopterarium is more than just an exhibit in a zoo. It is a carefully maintained habitat that meets the needs of butterflies and moths, ensuring their safety and well-being, while providing an engaging and educational experience for visitors.

Further Research

If you’d like to delve deeper into the fascinating world of lepidopterariums, the following online resources provide comprehensive, trusted information:

  1. Butterfly House and Insect World: A page dedicated to the lepidopterarium at ZSL London Zoo, where you can learn about the different species of butterflies and moths they house and their conservation efforts.
  2. The Lepidoptera Breeding: An informative article on the breeding of butterflies and moths, designed for enthusiasts and professionals alike.
  3. The Lepidopterarium Project: An article about the Lepidopterarium project, a unique initiative aimed at conserving endangered species of butterflies and moths.
  4. The Importance of Lepidoptera in Conservation: A scientific research article discussing the importance of butterflies and moths in biological conservation.

Remember, learning never stops. These resources will expand your understanding and appreciation of these beautiful creatures and the environments that support their survival and prosperity.