Walk amidst beautiful live butterflies!

2014 is the year of flight at the Toledo Zoo, with cool experiences that bring you closer to everything that flies—starting with amazing butterflies!

Free-flight butterflies

Friday, January 17, 2014 through Sunday, March 9, 2014
Great Hall in the Museum of Science

Butterflies flutter by as you walk through this free-flight exhibit, and it’s free with regular Zoo admission.

Butterfly photo at right provided by Jim Schulz, Chicago Zoological Society

Meet the Butterflies!

Our butterfly exhibit will feature six species of butterfly that will dazzle you with their bright colors and patterns.  Check out the photos and descriptions below to learn about each of them.

Gulf fritillary

Photo by Angie Benner, Toledo Zoo

The gulf fritillary is a beautiful butterfly with bright orange color above lustrous silver spots below, It inhabits second-growth subtropical forests and edges, open fields and pastures. It lives throughout the southern U.S., straying to the central U.S. in the summer. Adults feed on a variety of nectar sources including lantana and shepherd’s needle. Females lay eggs on passion-vines.


Photo by Jim Schulz, Chicago Zoological Society

The julia lives in subtropical hammock openings and edges in south Texas and southern Florida with occasional strays as far north as eastern Nebraska in summer. Adults forage along a set route of nectar sources each day in a behavior known as “trap lining.” Favorite flowers include lantana and shepherd’s needle.


Photo by Angie Benner, Toledo Zoo

the queen is a close relative of the well known monarch butterfly. It inhabits open, sunny areas like fields, washes, pastures and dunes. Like the monarch, females laytheir eggs on milkweed plants. Milkweeds contain chemicals that, when eaten by the queen caterpillars, makes them toxic to predators. The bright colors of the adults serve as a warning signal for predators to avoid the toxins.

White Peacock

Photo by Angie Benner, Toledo Zoo

The white peacock lives in south Texas and other regions of the deep south of the U.S. Adults inhabit moist areas such as the edges of ponds and streams, shallow ditches and weedy fields. Adults prefer to feed on the nectar of the shepherd’s needle. Females lay their eggs on several plants, inlcuding lemon verbana.

Zebra longwing

Photo by Jay Hemdal, Toledo Zoo

The zebra longwing lives in tropical hammocks, moist forests and fields in south Texas and southern Florida. Adults feed on the nectar and pollen of a variety of flowering plants they encounter on a set feeding route or “trap line.” Favorite plants include lantana and jatropha. Females lay their eggs on passion-vines.

Great southern white

Photo by Robina Weills

The great southern white inhabits salt marshes, coastal dunes, open fields and gardens. It is a resident along the south Atlantic and Gulf coastsof the U.S. but sometimes strays north to Maryland, Kansas and Colorado. Adults eat nectar from a wide variety of flowers including saltwort, lantana and verbena. Females lay their eggs on several plants in the mustard and caper plant families.