Butterfly garden reopens at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo after two-year closure

After two years of pandemic-related closures, the Woodland Park Zoo’s butterfly garden will resume welcoming visitors to its gravel paths.

Beginning Friday, classical music will play as more than 200 North American butterflies representing over a dozen species flutter around the covered green house among annual and perennial flowers.

Molbak’s butterfly garden is typically open seasonally between May and September. The enclosure was last open in 2019, and staff have since kept the exhibit closed to the public to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Woodland Park Zoo Interim Co-Curator Erin Sullivan said.

The exhibit is popular among adults and children, both of whom have repeatedly asked when the butterflies would return, she said.

“We’re just excited to bring it back and have people walk through and have them experience how magical this place is,” said Sullivan, who an entomologist.

The Butterfly Garden will be open to the public starting Friday through Monday, September 5, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

The exhibit, which does not have active ventilation, lights or heating and cooling, is designed to feature the species of butterflies people may see across North America and the Puget Sound region.

On average, butterflies only have a life span of around ten days, meaning the zoo must receive weekly shipments of pupae from butterfly farmers in Florida, Texas and Alabama, she said. Some species like monarchs live longer for months while other species including moths, do not even have mouths and live off their body stores, Sullivan said.

To prepare the greenhouse for opening, Sullivan said staff members had to move hundreds of spiders that had hatched while the space was unoccupied. Gardeners also had to replant more than a dozen species of flowers and shrubs.

Visitors are not permitted to touch butterflies, though they may land on visitors. No food or drink is allowed in the exhibit, and people must be checked for hitchhiking butterflies before leaving the exhibit.

The butterflies are most active on sunny warm days, Sullivan said. Visitors are also encouraged to look at the pollinator patio outside, which features plants people can grow to help butterflies and other pollinators.