The Mackinac Island Butterfly House is the third oldest live-butterfly house in the United States, and the first of its kind in Michigan. It's located behind the historic St. Anne's Church, just a few minutes walk from downtown in the direction of Mission Point Resort.
The facility is 1800 square feet in size, and features a tropical garden filled with hundreds of live butterflies of every imaginable size and color from around the world. In this world-renowned facility, the garden display has been likened to a "fairy tale,'' where the butterflies flutter, light and "dance'' to the sounds of classical music and falling water. There's even a waterfall at the heart of the garden paradise, surrounded by fragrant blossoms.
There are typically between 60 and 80 different species and about 800 butterflies total to be found in the garden at all times. One of the most popular species is the Blue Morpho, which is native to Costa Rica. The butterfly is identifiable by its bright, iridescent-blue coloring and fast, erratic flight.
Another popular butterfly on display is the Blue Clipper, which is just one of the many species native to Malaysia and Southeast Asia. Members of this species can vary in color, including blue, green, brown, and orange, depending on the part of Asia from which they originate.
Visitors may not realize it, but the butterfly exhibit undergoes constant change. Most adult butterflies live only 10-14 days, so 400 to 450 chrysalides - or "nympha,'' which denotes the pupal stage of butterflies - must be purchased from butterfly farms in North and South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe every week from April through September.
The chrysalides are then cared for until the caterpillars inside transform into butterflies and emerge, and visitors may even have the opportunity to witness the event. After the new butterflies are able to fly, they are released into the garden. During the summer months, such releases of new butterflies take place several times a day.
In addition to the live butterfly exhibit, the house also features Insect World, which displays a variety of mounted insects and live "herps'' (another word for reptile or amphibian) from the world's tropical regions. Visitors can see such wonders as a 14-inch walking "stick,'' giant beetles and spiders, grasshoppers, scorpions, and six-inch-long centipedes. The exhibit even lays claim as the current record holder for displaying the "world's heaviest bug.''
Another feature attraction of Insect World is a large turtle pond, the home to several Red Eared Sliders, which are water turtles commonly found in the United States. Also on display is an Australian Bearded Dragon and two Blue Poison Dart Frogs from South America, as well as other reptiles and amphibians.
For visitors who want to see more, Mackinac Island offers a number of historic buildings, biking, hiking, shopping, eating, horseback riding, and carriage rides. And Mackinac Island State Park, which encompasses 80 percent of the island, adds to the majestic geological wonders and visual treasures of the island that is considered sacred to the Ojibwa and Odawa Great Lakes Indian Tribes.