Melbourne Zoo Butterflies Spread Their Wings Through Winter

06 August 2021

While Melbourne shivers through winter, the residents of Melbourne Zoo's iconic Butterfly House are thriving, according to the Zoo’s latest butterfly census.

The Zoo’s Butterfly House is kept at a humid 28 degrees throughout the winter months so that the butterflies can continue breeding all year round.

Melbourne Zoo Ectotherm keeper Jessie Sinclair says keeping the Butterfly House at this temperature allows the colourful insects to flourish through winter as they would in summer.

“The butterflies in the Butterfly House aren’t affected at all by winter,” Ms Sinclair said. “We regulate it to 28 degrees so that it’s almost like stepping into Far North Queensland.

“It’s a perfect summer temperature. The butterflies can perform their natural behaviours - they can mate and breed and fly, and function as if it’s summer all year round.”

With over 600 individual butterflies in the Butterfly House, of up to 14 different species, keepers have the difficult task of counting the butterfly population every four weeks.

“We actually cool the temperature in the House down to 18 degrees, and we’ll count the butterflies first thing in the morning - every species and every individual,” Ms Sinclair said.

Every day, keepers release up to 100 butterflies into the House.

“Every butterfly you see flying in there, was bred by us here at Melbourne Zoo. We always have eggs being produced, so our butterflies are breeding year-round,” Ms Sinclair said.

July has been a particularly successful month for one spectacular butterfly species.

“This month we’ve actually seen an increase in the emergence of Grass Yellow butterflies. So, if you’re in the Butterfly House over the next couple of months, you’ll see a kaleidoscope of yellow butterflies fluttering through the space.”