Enjoy Beautiful Butterflies Without Even Going Outdoors

Most people think bugs are gross, and they try to avoid them. However, there are a few exceptions. Ladybugs. Dragonflies. Lightning bugs. Butterflies. Although not all of them are technically bugs, each has some quality that we, as humans, find appealing.

We like ladybugs  because they’re red and shiny. (I’ll admit I found them a little unattractive when I awoke one morning in my mother’s house years ago, after having left the window open because she liked to keep the house at a dry 86 degrees in winter, to find hundreds of them covering the bedroom walls.)

We like dragonflies because with their size and brightly colored wings, they’re like beautiful airplanes. Plus, they eat mosquitoes, which are not pretty or fun. For some reason, dragon flies have become a common design on baby and children’s clothes, as if they were cute and snuggly.

We like lightning bugs because they light up. Light is generally considered a positive thing, and to create it with your own backside is just too cool. Its magic has been captured and distributed throughout the toddler world in the Eric Carle classic, The Very Lonely Firefly.

Butterflies are beloved to many. With their beautiful colored wings and quiet grace, they inspire people to stop and watch them alight on a branch or blossom. Especially if you live in the city, this may be a rare sight.

But there’s a solution now, and it’s the Butterfly Pavilion at the Museum of Natural History. Here, the butterflies float and flutter silently among the plants, and if you’re still, one may land on you.

The exhibit houses scores of butterflies from the U.S., Mexico, Central and South America, Africa, India, China and Southeast Asia.

While you’re there, if you’re a huge insect fan, head up to the second floor to the O. Orkin Insect Zoo, where you can see caterpillars, grasshoppers, leaf bugs and more. Watch the tarantula feeding at 11:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m.

The insect zoo — more than 40 years old — is the oldest operating zoo of its kind in the U.S. If you bring the kids, let them climb through the 14-foot-high replica of a termite mound.

If you’re on the Maryland side of the DMV, you can also see butterflies at Brookside Gardens, 1500 Glenallan Ave., Wheaton, MD. The Wings of Fancy exhibit is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends through Aug. 31. Tickets are $8 for ages 13+ and $5 for ages 3-12. Kids under 3 get in free.

Tickets: Adults (13-59), $7.50; seniors (60+), $7; children (2 to 12), $6.50; Free for everyone on Tuesdays, tickets still required due to timed entries.