The Cockrell Butterfly Center is located at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The center opened its doors in 1994, with the express goal to promote butterfly watching and gardening to the local Houston community. The center also had a mission of educating the public about butterfly conservation. The center provides education and entertainment for people of all ages. Visitors can discover a world of insects including exotic plants, and thousands of beautiful, living butterflies. Over one hundred of the species at the Cockrell Butterfly Center are exotic in origin. The exotic butterflies are imported to the Cockrell Center in their chrysalis stage. Every week, the center imports a thousand butterflies and maintains about two thousand butterflies overall. The most popular species of butterflies at the center are the Julia Butterfly, Longwing Butterfly, Rice Paper Butterfly, Red Peacock Butterfly and Owl Butterfly. The hundreds of butterflies that can be viewed at the Cockrell Center are imported from butterfly farms from around the world. The butterflies are fed through exotic and indigenous flowering plants that provide juices and nectar for the butterflies that are grown and live in the gardens. The various plants found throughout the center are of great interest to those with a horticultural background. The center is built to simulate a tropical rainforest to give the exact ambiance the butterflies, plant, and insects need to thrive and live comfortably. The butterflies have the ability to run free and visitors may even be lucky enough to have a butterfly alight on them while they tour the facilities.
There is also an area within the center called the "Insects and Us" section. The "Insects and Us'' section of the center gives visitors the chance to learn about butterfly gardening, mosquito control, and beekeeping. Visitors can also learn about what insects are used for food or delicacies around the world. The entire Cockrell Butterfly Center is very family friendly and caters to children who attend the center for educational reasons. There are fun quizzes, interactive games and a section called the Land of Beyond that is specifically for toddlers. In the land of beyond, smaller children can read insect-themed storybooks, play in a giant beehive and even do a puzzle or two.
Included in the Cockrell Butterfly Center is a large facility called the Brown Hall of Entomology. Entomology is a branch of zoology that specializes in insects. In the Brown Hall of Entomology, there are thousands of insects and their relatives available for education and entertainment. Some of the worlds largest insect species can be found in the hall. Hairy tarantulas, bizarre walking sticks, giant horned beetles, cockroaches, and camouflaged mantids provide hours of interest to those fascinated with bugs.
Visitors to the Cockrell Butterfly Center are not allowed to touch the butterflies, animals or plants in order to maintain the integrity of the insect's environment. School groups are encouraged to attend the center but must provide one adult supervisor for every ten children. Visitors to the Cockrell Butterfly Center consider it one of the best things about the Houston Museum of Natural Science.