By Daily Mail Reporter
Lucia Wagstaff 8, with a Blue Morpho, found in South America. Their entire life-cycle only takes 137 days.
Young explorers were all of a flutter today, as they came up close to a host of magnificent butterflies at the National History Museum.
Hundreds of the colourful insects from bright Blue Morphos to Owl butterflies were unveiled to school children at a preview of the museum's new 'Butterfly Explorers' exhibition.
Gabriel Wagstaff (left) and Parker Canning study butterflies feeding on oranges at the Natural History Museum's 'Butterfly Explorers.' Adult butterflies can drink but cannot eat
Visitors will see all stages of the butterfly life-cycle in the special enclosure.
They will experience the wildly varied environments in which butterflies live in North America, Africa and Asia as well as the heart of the Amazon rainforest in South America, where there are more butterfly species than anywhere else on Earth
A butterfly emerges from a chrysalis at the exhibition which opens to the public on April 8
Butterflies develop from an egg to a caterpillar before cocooning themselves inside a pupa. They finally emerge as winged adults and set about reproducing.
However, butterflies don't survive for long as they cannot eat and can only drink through a straw-like mouth.
While this entire cycle only takes 137 days for some species like Blue Morphos, arctic butterflies are believed to have a two-year life cycle.
The exhibition includes two hatchery windows where butterflies will emerge from the pupae, as well as feeding tables.
Visitors will also learn strange facts about different species, such as the Glasswing that drinks poisonous sap from heliptrope leaves, to make themselves taste unpleasant to predators.
It will also include information on why some species are under threat and how to encourage butterflies into your own garden.
It comes as conservationists warn that a third of Europe's butterflies are in decline.
The large blue butterfly, which was successfully reintroduced to the UK after dying out here, is endangered throughout Europe, according to the European Red List assessment of species at risk.
And the Duke of Burgundy and Lulworth skipper, which both suffered their worst year in the UK last year, are in decline in many countries across the continent.
Butterfly house manager Luke Brown releases a fresh consignment of butterflies at the Natural History Museum's exhibition
The release of the European Red List, commissioned by the European Commission, also revealed 14 per cent of dragonflies and 11 per cent of a group of beetles which rely on decaying wood were at risk of extinction.
Conservationists said a loss of habitats, including traditionally-farmed grasslands, woodlands and wetlands, was the major factor affecting insect species.
Butterfly Explorers will run from April 8 until 26 September, 2010. For more information visit www.nhm.ac.uk
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