Tropical Forest at Otago Museum

The temperature can drop below zero during a Dunedin winter but one place you’re guaranteed to keep warm is in the Tropical Forest at Otago Museum. On the day I was there it was a balmy 35.8 degrees celsius with 64% humidity, I can confirm that’s not enough humidity to make your hair frizz.

Hibiscus can be found in Dunedin

Hibiscus can be found in Dunedin

Butterflies are the main attraction in the Tropical Forest and they arrive in New Zealand in chrysalis form from breeders in Costa Rica and the Philippines. At 11am every day as well as1.30pm weekends and school holidays you can see what they call ‘first flight’ which is when the newly emerged butterflies are released.

First Flight - Tropical Forest

First Flight – Tropical Forest

Tropical Forest, Otago Museum

Tropical Forest, Otago Museum

Tropical Forest, Otago Museum

Tropical Forest, Otago Museum

I don’t think the ‘first flight’ is a must see, so if you can’t time your visit for it you can still enjoy the pretty butterflies, and see the hairy tarantula. Tarantulas are found in rainforests in South and Central America, fortunately in Dunedin they’re found behind glass.

Hairy tarantula

Hairy tarantula

You can’t have a rainforest without water and a tall waterfall tumbles down the three levels of the forest. At times, heavy showers also pour down from the ceiling – it’s definitely worth using one of the umbrellas provided.

Make use of the umbrellas

Make use of the umbrellas

What surprised me was how much the yellow and black butterfly (below) liked the rain, it was pouring down and yet it stayed flat out on a lily pad in the water for ages, possibly drinking? Butterflies are obviously not as fragile as I think they are. Although maybe the butterfly was too cold to move, or was cooling down? That’s a question for the experts – lepidopterists incase you were wondering.

Water loving butterflies?

Water loving butterflies?

The butterflies are fed fruit and artificial nectar made from sugar and water

The butterflies are fed fruit and artificial nectar made from sugar and water

I do know that butterflies drink through a proboscis that extends like a drinking straw when they are feeding, and curls up when not in use. They taste through sensors on their feet so walking across peeled fruit is a tasty way to travel.

The extended proboscis - drinking nectar

The extended proboscis – drinking nectar

Front view of a butterfly

Front view of a butterfly

I was interested to read that butterfly wings are clear, it’s the scales on the wings that give them colour. However the glasswing butterfly has few scales so its wings are almost transparent. There were no glasswing butterflies in the Tropical Forest when I visited, but cross your fingers because you can see them occasionally.

Scales give butterfly wings their colour

Scales give butterfly wings their colour

Entry to the Tropical Forest is $10 for adults, ages 2-18 years $5. Otago Museum is at 419 Great King Street, admission is free to most other exhibitions, donations appreciated.

Look out for little birds too

Look out for little birds too

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