“B” is for butterfly! Enjoy Hilton Head’s newest free family attraction at Coastal Discovery Museum

Hurray for the new butterfly exhibit at the Coastal Discovery Museum on the Honey Horn plantation. Children of all ages will be delighted to walk around jolly butterflies and see them emerge from chrysalises.

The outdoor garden is a shutterbugs and green thumbs mecca. There are so many beautiful flowers, plants and trees butterfly love to visit.

Entrance to the Butterfly exhibit at Coastal Discovery Museum

Entrance to the Butterfly exhibit at Coastal Discovery Museum

You can tour the habitat for free at your own pace every day from 9AM to 4:30PM (11-3 on Sunday).

Through September the museum offers guided tours on Mondays at 10AM and Wednesdays at 3PM for $10 adults and $5 children 4-12 years old.

Amazing escape artists butterflies resort to all sorts of tricks to survive. Some, like the Monarch, parade bright color wings to advertise their are toxic to eat. Others, like the Viceroy, take the shortcut and just mimic butterflies who are toxic.

Most butterflies learn to blend in the surroundings resembling leaves, sticks and even bird droppings! My favorite is the Buckeye that has owl-like patterns to scare off small birds.

Butterfly Insights

The Black Swallowtail is very common in South Carolina. The large yellow striped caterpillars

Black Beauty Swalowtail, most common butterfly in the Lowcountry

Black Beauty Swalowtail, most common butterfly in the Lowcountry

are a common sight to herb gardeners, easily devouring entire plants once they start eating!

The Black Swallowtail is one of the earliest butterflies to hatch (mid-March), after spending the winter as chrysalises.

Host plants: Water Hemlock, Queen Anne’s Lace, cumin, parsley, carrot, cilantro and celery.

The Giant Swallowtail when disturbed it ejects stinking chemicals to repel small predators like ants and spiders.

Host plants: Toothache and Citrus family trees.

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail winters on Hilton Head as a pupa. Males often patrol the treetops and swoop down to intercept females for mating. The caterpillars change their appearance with each molt: first looking like bird droppings, then turning green and showing two large eye spots, and finally, changing brown as they start to pupate.

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is the state butterfly for Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, South Carolina and Virgina.

The Zebra Longwing males are attracted to both adult females and those still in their chrysalis, mating with them before they emerge.

Zebra Longwing warrior

Zebra Longwing warrior

Afterward they’ll deposit chemicals on the female abdomen that will repel other males!

Power in the numbers! The Zebra Longwing engage in communal night roosting when you can see up to 25 individuals hanging from a tree brunch.

Unlike other butterflies, the Longwing specie can also digest pollen from flowers. The amino-acids allow them to live much longer than the average 2-3 weeks butterfly life span.

Host plants: Maypop and Yellow Passionflower.

The Gulf Fritillary – Although the larvae are solitary feeders once in adult stage they can be seen congregating in large numbers, enough to completely defoliate a plant.

Stay Out! The larvae displays bright colors to advertise its toxicity to potential predators, thus it is mainly left alone.

Host plants: Maypop and Yellow Passionflower.

The Monarch is legendary due to its North American migration that takes five

The Mighty Monarch takes 5 generations to complete the annual North American migration

The Mighty Monarch takes 5 generations to complete the annual North American migration

generations to complete.

During the northward migration females deposit eggs for the next generation.

The 3rd and 4th generation will reach Canada by the late spring and in fall the last generation enters a non-reproductive stage lasting several months. They will migrate south and winter in California and Mexico.

Host plants: Milkweeds.

The Butterfly Life cycle (data from exhibits)

The adult butterfly lives around 2-3 weeks although there are few like the Monarch and Zebra Longwing that live for months. Butterflies spend their time eating, looking for mates, reproducing and in the case of females, laying eggs. At this point their life cycle is complete.

Butterfly eggs are about 2 mm in size and usually hatch out within a week, although for some species it happens the next spring.

Live metarmorphosis, see caterpillars and chrysalises develop before your eyes!

Live metarmorphosis, see caterpillars and chrysalises develop before your eyes!

Most butterflies lay about 100 to 300 eggs, yet the number varies wildly with each specie, from dozens to several thousands eggs.

The caterpillar is the only stage the butterfly grows in size. Most caterpillars grow for 2 to 4 weeks, yet some species will winter as caterpillars. Some even develop false eye spots to fend off potential predators!

The chrysalis stage can last from couple weeks to months. During metamorphosis tissues liquefy and change into the structure of an adult butterfly.

Amazing Butterfly Trivia

• A caterpillar grows 27 times larger than its original form. In human terms a 9 pound baby will end up weighing about 243 tons!
• Out of each 100 eggs laid only 2 will survive to become adult butterflies.
• Some male butterflies can detect a female up to a mile away based on pheromones emitted by her body.
• A butterfly can fly with half a wing.
• There are about 700 butterfly species in North America and about 28 thousands worldwide.
• Butterflies can see in all directions up, down, left, right, front and back all at once! They can also see in ultraviolet range light that’s invisible to humans.
• Some butterflies can drink fluids from tree sap, rotting fruit, bird droppings and even animal carcasses!

Now that you fell in love with butterflies drive to Columbia and visit Edventure children museum. It has a bigger facility featuring up to 10 species and over 200 butterflies.

Check out this list with my favorite things to do with young kids in and around Hilton Head.