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Want to step out of winter and into a tropical conservatory with 100 species of butterflies? The new Butterfly Biosphere at Thanksgiving Point is open.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) A butterfly lands on the head of 4-year-old Maycee Barker, at the Butterfly Biosphere at Thanksgiving Point’s Water Tower Plaza in Lehi. Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. The Butterfly Biosphere is home to more than a thousand butterflies from around the world. The exhibit also has dozens of species of butterflies.

Thanksgiving Point in Lehi is now home to the Butterfly Biosphere — an exhibit that allows guests to meet 100 species of the flying insects, plus 100 species of other bugs. And you won’t even need a net.

The $30 million, 33,000-square-foot facility is in the former emporium building north of the water tower. The building includes a 10,000-square-foot, glassed-in butterfly conservatory filled with tropical plants and more than 1,000 butterflies from around the world.

“The butterflies inside here, you’ll never see in your garden here in Utah,” said Thanksgiving Point spokesman Josh Berndt. “We don’t have anything in here right now that’s native to Utah at all.

“Right now, our most popular ones are probably from Costa Rica, but there's some that come from Kenya, the Congo and different spots in Asia.”

The conservatory is “supposed to be like Costa Rica, so it’s about 85 degrees in about 50-60 percent humidity,” Berndt said. “That kind of self-regulates how many people are in there at a time.”

(You can step out, cool off and re-enter the conservatory, however.)

Thanksgiving Point had to be certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be allowed to import nonnative species “to make sure that these butterflies can’t get out. … They could really cause some damage to our ecosystem,” Berndt said.

“Everybody who comes here has to go through a double magnetic door. Look, if a butterfly lands on you, that’s fine. No problem. You just make sure they don’t walk out with you.”

The Butterfly Biosphere includes a “Costa Rica Climber” that features tree houses, nature-themed areas and a separate play area for young children. The Discovery Zone is an “insectarium” filled with interactive exhibits, including a Hold a Critter station where you can — you guessed it! — hold insects in your hand.

“It’s like living science,” Berndt said. “We try and do hands-on stuff here. They’re learning, but the kids don’t really know they’re learning. We’re tricking them.”

Butterfly Biosphere

Where • Thanksgiving Point, 3003 N. Thanksgiving Way, Lehi

Hours • 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays; the last admission is at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets • $20 ages 13 and up, $15 ages 3-12 and 65 and up; free for Thanksgiving Point members and children ages 2 and younger; available at thanksgivingpoint.org

Tickets are timed and are valid for 30 minutes from the time reserved. (Members also must get tickets and reserve a time.)

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