Sunday 6 April 2008

Amazing Butterflies Exhibition, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London

To enter this unusual living exhibition, you first have to find your way through a maze of blue mesh fences. At each junction of the maze, there are rhyming poems, sometimes supplemented by a game, tracing a stage in the life of a butterfly. Kids are issued with a black and white picture card, which they can decorate with insect stamps dispensed by small machines sprinkled around the maze. But some of the games appear to be broken and the maze can get a bit wearing for adults.

When you finally enter the porch of the temporary butterfly house, you immediately notice the warm, moist atmosphere. Inside are a myriad of exotic and colorful flowers, scented plants, young citrus trees and bowls of rotting fruit. Scores of colourful and intricately-patterned butterflies cling to the side of the marquee or flutter around your head. Some of these tropical butterflies are as large as a child's hand, but their paper-like wings look very flimsy. In one corner, a glass cabinet contains hundreds of chrysalis in various stages of the metamorphosis into butterflies. At weekends, it can get rather crowded and there is sometimes a shortage of the laminated sheets identifying each butterfly. But this enthralling exhibition is still worth the modest entrance prices - an adult ticket is £5, while a family ticket costs £14. 7/10