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Published:August 14th, 2007 09:36 EST

Butterfly Pavilion Buzzes with FUN

By Julie Whiteman

Wait! Before you stomp on that big creepy bug, did you ever wonder what it is? Or how it lives, breathes, eats, and survives? As yucky as we think bugs can be, there is a place where these invertebrates are the stars of the show! It`s called the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, CO. One day hoping to be the nation`s premier invertebrate education center " as stated in their vision, this mini-museum features everything from creepy crawly hands-on critters, to a rainforest atmosphere with hundreds of new butterflies every day. Whether you`re eight or eighty-eight, the Butterfly Pavilion has something for everyone!

In the Crawl-A-See- "Em, brave kids and adults can view up to 35 species of invertebrates including tarantulas, leaf insects, scorpions, beetles, and giant millipedes. And if you`re feeling extremely brave, you can even hold Rosie, the friendly Chilean Rose Hair tarantula! "

Right in the next room at The Water`s Edge, visitors can touch a horseshoe crab, sea star, sea cucumber and a number of aquatic invertebrates from the deep blue seas. Take a few more steps into the Shrunk! " exhibit and get a flashback from Honey I Shrunk the Kids when you see giant replicas of insects and climb through a bee`s honeycomb. More interactive exhibits in this room include a look through the eyes of an insect, making a dragonfly fly, and watching a grasshopper eat.

In addition, a half-mile nature trail loop features animals and insects of Colorado. Walking along this trail most likely to be seen are rabbits, prairie dogs, beavers, owls, and maybe even a great blue heron or the albino hawk that lives nearby.

Last but not least, the Wings over the Tropics Tropical Conservatory features the main attraction of the Butterfly Pavilion: the butterflies themselves. Over 1200 butterflies are released daily at 12:30 and 3:30 into the rainforest environment. The exhibit must be kept at 80% humidity and between 70 and 90 degrees to imitate a real rainforest so that the butterflies can live. However, butterflies aren`t the only attraction. There are also turtles, doves, frogs, fish and more to view. And as if these things weren`t enough, the Butterfly Pavilion has a gift shop with everything from creepy crawly toys to beautiful butterfly jewelry.

There are always fun programs going on at the Butterfly Pavilion too. Right now, it is the Backyard Bugs Passport Adventure. Receive a passport at the door and get it stamped for completing different tasks around the museum. Then at the end, receive a free prize! Coming up in the fall, catch the Bug-A-Phobia program, come face to face with the most commonly scary " bugs such as leeches and roaches, and find out that they`re not so bad after all.

The Butterfly Pavilion is great for school groups. Many groups enjoy the museum and then have bag lunch or a snack from the snack bar outside at the picnic area. The opportunity to teach children about conservation is the thing I enjoy most about my job, " says Khanh Whiteman, entomologist at the Butterfly Pavilion. Whiteman explained that for every 2.5 acres of rainforest destroyed, 500 butterflies are killed. Butterflies are environmental indicators, which means that if there is something bad in the environment, most likely they will die first. This is an indication to others that something is going wrong in the environment. However, just by purchasing the butterflies from rainforests around the world, the Butterfly Pavilion contributes over $80,000 a year to sustainable farming operations in endangered ecosystems. "

The Pavilion also has a space that seats 150 people, perfect for business meetings, weddings, showers, banquets, birthday parties, and other events. This area is used frequently, especially in the summer with weddings and bridal showers, says Whiteman. In addition, the Butterfly Pavilion is in the process of expanding. Soon they hope to add more trails and even an amphitheater to their already buzzing atmosphere.

If you plan to visit the Butterfly Pavilion, their hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the winter and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the summer. Admission is $7.95 for adults, $4.95 for kids (ages 3 - 12), and $5.95 for seniors (age 62 plus) and Westminster residents. Kids under 3 are free.

Individual, business, and patron memberships are also available. For more information visit the Butterfly Pavilion website at http://www.butterflies.org/ or give them a call at (303) 469-5441.