Celebrate 25 years of the Native Butterfly House

A visit to the Paul Smith’s VIC Native Butterfly House is an experience for all ages. (Photo provided — Diane Chase)

The Native Butterfly House at Paul Smith College’s VIC is celebrating its Silver Jubilee. For 25 years this unique netted canopy has not only provided a place to view native species. It is also a valuable resource for anyone interested in attracting butterflies and other pollinators to their own backyard. I love going to the VIC and never miss an opportunity to stop by the Native Butterfly House during the summer months. I share the experience with family and visitors every chance I get.

The Butterfly House is here to provide us a window into the world of butterflies and moths. It isn’t meant to be the only place to see butterflies. It is merely a sampling of the native species that we can see around the Adirondacks. It’s not a butterfly zoo. You may never see the same creatures year after year. That is part of the appeal, never really knowing what will be there.

I’ve been going to the VIC’s Native Butterfly House for so many years and so many times that I’ve long lost track of the number of visits. Sometimes my visits are based on research. How can I attract more butterflies/pollinators to my garden? Sometimes my visits are just about watching beautiful butterflies and moths. I always find that the Butterfly House is a relaxing haven on the property of the Paul Smith’s VIC.

At our most recent visit we are told that a hummingbird moth is determined to escape. We enter quickly through the doors, but can’t find the moth. Our eyes are immediately drawn to the bright orange of the Monarchs. Their markings are so distinctive even the smallest child identifies them without assistance. A few monarchs are mating while others have already laid eggs. We find only one caterpillar happily munching away on milkweed leaves.

All these native inhabitants are responsibly collected by experts. Attendants not only release the butterflies into the enclosed butterfly house to mate, lay eggs, and hatch, but also fed and kept them safe.

The plants inside the enclosure are not chosen randomly. The Butterfly House has three seasons of nectar plants for their visiting butterflies and moths. Lilacs, purple coneflowers, goldenrod, columbine, milkweed, and annual flowers provide the necessary food.

There are displays showcasing Adirondack butterflies and moths and a small touch box. The Butterfly House coordinators are knowledgeable, passionate about what they do, and always willing to share information should any questions arise.

There is a free Butterfly Festival on Aug. 11, 2018 to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Don’t wait until then to make a visit. Take some time and enjoy the butterfly house then walk the VIC’s free trails or visit the nearby playground. Inside the VIC building is a beautiful butterfly art exhibition as well as an interactive display and touch table.

The Paul Smith’s College Breck Chapin Native Species Butterfly House is currently open every day, 11a.m. to 4 p.m., through Labor Day weekend. Admission is free, but donations are accepted to help improve The Butterfly House experience. From Saranac Lake take state Route 86 to Paul Smiths. Turn right onto state Route 30 and drive about a half-mile. The VIC entrance is on the left.

Diane Chase is the author of the “Adirondack Family Activities” guidebook series, “Adirondack Family Time: Your Four-Season Guide to Over 300 Activities.” For more family-friendly activities go to