Giant Swallowtail Butterfly

Southwest Florida Butterfly Conservatory Exhibit

Would you believe that one of the best local places to see Florida butterflies is in Greater Downtown Fort Myers? The Butterfly Estates, home to The Florida Native Butterfly Society, is located just a few blocks from the Caloosahatchee River in the redeveloped river district area. The glazed glass butterfly conservatory is built amongst beautifully refurbished historic homes and is situated in a park like setting. The landscaping on the grounds is full of tropical nectar plants which draws butterflies to the exterior of the attraction. You’ll be greeted by butterflies as soon as you park your car.

On the first visit I wasn’t sure what to expect but I did know that I wanted to go early to beat the summer heat.

The entrance of the conservatory has an air conditioned lobby where visitors pay for admission and get their first introduction to caterpillars and chrysalis which are being nurtured in a protected environment.

It’s a great demonstration of the cycle of life that all ages can appreciate. It’s very likely that you’d be able to watch a recently hatched or even an emerging butterfly when you visit.

On the day I visited a family with children was touring the Estates and the children had the opportunity to help release a few butterflies into the conservatory. The butterflies weren’t particularly anxious to leave the finger roosts so the youngsters were able to study them for a few minutes before they finally took flight.

I was surprised to learn that there are local butterfly gardeners who donate caterpillars and chrysalis to The Butterfly Estates because their own gardens are running low on vegetation and there won’t be enough food to go around. While I was touring the facility someone donated a long strand of twine with dozens of chrysalis attached. It looked almost like Christmas twinkle lights. One of the butterfly specialists stretched it between two trees in the conservatory so they could hatch in the safe environment.

There are many varieties of Florida butterflies to be seen at the Butterfly Estates. There are so many butterflies that it’s a challenge to stay focused on just one because there are so many flying around. They will sometimes even land on you. Joanne, the butterfly specialist who gave me a tour, even had one park on her name tag while we were talking about the varieties of flowers on site. I should mention that in addition to seeing the beautiful flowering plants and outstanding butterfly collection you will have access to quite an education as the staff freely shares their wealth of knowledge.

Some tips if you go: The entire butterfly habitat is enclosed but only the entry area is air conditioned. The walk ways are flat, sturdy and accessible for those with mobility challenges.This is also an educational facility and they want you to know more and do more to help butterflies and pollinators in southwest Florida.

The Butterfly Estates is currently open Tuesday through Saturday 9am-3pm. You can learn more about the facility and their onsite gift shop and restaurant on their website and their Facebook page at



This article special to Southwest Spotlight Newspaper