Rules of the Rainforest | Inside the Cockrell Butterfly Center


June 7, 2022
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Visiting the Cockrell Butterfly Center is a wonderful, sometimes cathartic experience. To make sure every plant, animal, and human has the best experience possible, I sat down with CBC Manager, Lauren Davidson, to document a helpful list of so-called “Do’s and Don’ts” to consider when visiting our fluttery friends. Don’t worry, it’s mostly a fun list, but there are some other, mostly safety related considerations visitors should also be aware of.

While you should certainly hop over to the HMNS YouTube Channel and enjoy the CBC Do’s and Don’ts video we’ve put together, this article will highlight some fascinating bonus tidbits gleaned from our conversation with Lauren.

Up view of Cockrell Butterfly Center full
 of green plants in sunlight
Sunny view of the Cockrell Butterfly Center rainforest
Alright Lauren, super honesty time, what is the worst thing in recent memory you’ve seen someone doing in the CBC?

Oh wow…how much time do you have? Hahaha! Well I remember one day there was a guy on the upper level who had climbed out to the other side of the railing and was hanging backwards trying to get a selfie! You know, anything for the ‘Gram, man. Hashtag Selfie. We also caught someone trying to steal plants. Sometimes parents will put their kids in the middle of plant beds to take pictures. I saw a kid try to pick up a tortoise…and all of this is just what I’ve personally seen. I’m sure VS (Visitor Services) has more horror stories.

So, if anyone is reading this thinks it’s just the kids being naughty who need these rules…

Nope. It’s mostly adults.

Wow. I know we like to think we’re too mature and these rules are just for kids, but nope.

Yep. It’s mostly the adults that need reminding or kids under the direction of adults.

Why is it so important not to pick or take plants out of the CBC?

You shouldn’t pick or harm the plants because they are food and habitat for the butterflies and other animals. As for stealing the plants, it’s against the law and a USDA regulation. A lot of the plants and animals in here are not native to our region and can potentially cause billions of dollars of ecological disruption.

What if somebody really likes a plant and wants it for their yard?

We actually sell a lot of our plants and seeds on our Plant Cart for not a whole lot of money! Just ask!

Lauren, while no pets are allowed for the safety of others, the CBC animals, and the pets themselves, what about service animals?

Service animals are of course allowed, but they have to be under control. Generally, this is not an issue, but just so long as guests are aware that if their service animal becomes out of control they can potentially be asked to leave the CBC for everyone and everything’s safety. Emotional Support animals, unfortunately, are not allowed inside at this time.

Nacho the green iguana rests on a rock and enjoys the sunlight
Nacho the green iguana
I kind of want to hear more examples of people being naughty in the CBC…

Well, I will say that since we’ve started enforcing rules like not reaching for or disturbing the butterflies, their lifespans have measurably improved. If you think about it, we look like giant predators to them, so when we aren’t constantly coming after them, they lead much less stressful and happier lives. Also, you don’t want to touch any reptiles or tortoises. Not just for their safety, but yours. Reptiles can carry salmonella.

What is the best time to come see the butterflies being most active?

In general, sunny mornings. We like to say that the butterflies are solar powered. Some butterflies are also active at dusk, so during the time of year when the sun sets early, you’ll see increased activity then as well.

Since the climate is tightly controlled 24/7, how did the CBC do during the 2021 ice storm?

We are on the Med Center’s grid, so our power is very reliable. We also have a backup generator, but we never lost power.

In the CBC, what is your favorite animal, butterfly, and plant?

Nacho the Iguana of course, and the Atlas Beetle. As for favorite butterfly, the Starry Night Cracker. My favorite plant would be our Pride of Trinidad tree.

Do you ever turn off the waterfall?

Only for maintenance and sometimes during weddings so people can hear vows and things.

What would you like most people to know that they might not realize?

Don’t miss our Insect Zoo. A lot of people see the upper level exit and just leave because they are instantly distracted by the entrance to the rainforest and make a b-line to the butterflies. You can see butterflies emerging from their chrysalises there, which is really cool to witness. Also, it is warm in here year round, so wear removable layers in the winter. People should also realize that it’s a very peaceful place when it’s not busy. Feel free to sit and enjoy the peace and serenity for as long as you like. Just keep in mind that it is a one-time entrance pass, so plan accordingly.

So when is the best time to come enjoy the peaceful quite time?

Weekdays after school starts. So early September through probably mid-October. Especially early in the morning or late afternoon. You can come sit, relax, and at times you might be completely alone to enjoy the peace.

If you’d like to enjoy our video of CBC Do’s and Don’ts, you can watch it here!

Related Reads:

How Long Do Butterflies Live? New Data From The Butterfly Center Gives Us Some Answers

Top 5 Most Frequently Asked Questions in the Cockrell Butterfly Center

Authored By Johnny Hemberger

Johnny never outgrew his natural curiosity. From all facets of science to geek culture, you can find him looking through a telescope, playing retro video games on his customized arcade machine, or cruising around in his famous, time-traveling movie car. Yep. He has a Delorean, because of course he would. You can catch Johnny exploring all things fascinating on the HMNS YouTube channel!


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