2019 marks the 20th Anniversary of Carleton University’s Department of Biology Annual Butterfly Show, a free community event run by volunteers. During the 9 days leading into the Thanksgiving weekend, over 1300 live exotic butterflies, representing 41 different species worldwide, are released into the greenhouses of the Nesbitt Biology building. The public is invited to come visit these beautiful creatures and learn more about them! The building lobby contains educational displays of local butterflies with true colour photos and fascinating information. Each year, more than 1,000 students from local schools and over 10,000 community visitors dropped by the Carleton greenhouses to enjoy the butterflies. The butterflies fly freely in the greenhouses and will occasionally land on visitors. It truly is a memorable experience and a great opportunity to take photographs.

The Butterfly Show has always been funded in part through the generosity of its visitors. To ensure that the Butterfly Show can run successfully in the future, and remain accessible for future generations, we encourage your support of the Butterfly Show with a generous donation!

In honour of the Butterfly Show’s 20th Anniversary, the first $ 5,000 in donations will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Department of University Advancement. That means that your gift will make double its impact!

The Background

Each year, the Butterfly Show costs $6-7 thousand to run. The bulk of that cost is the importing of around 1300 tropical butterflies from around the world. Both admission to the show and the tours are offered free of charge; we believe that this show should be accessible to everyone. For admission to remain free, a donation box has always been stationed at the show.

Unfortunately, our donation totals have drastically declined in the past few years and have not been meeting our total expenditures, putting the Butterfly Show at risk of needing an admission fee or being cancelled all together.


The Rollout

We believe the decrease in donations is due to our increasingly cashless society, as visitors to the show are not always prepared to donate. Fortunately, with donations through FutureFunder, we will be able both to make improvements to the Butterfly Show’s educational materials and facilities, and hopefully continue to run a free show for future generations to enjoy.

Some of the materials that require funding include:

Plant and butterfly care:

To ensure our butterflies remain happy and healthy, part of the funding will go towards the purchase of more nectar plants as well as new shading material for our butterfly nursery. In addition, new pots will be purchased for our fabulous array of tropical plants here in the greenhouses.

The Let’s Talk Science presentations are performed by volunteers, who are students from Carleton and the University of Ottawa. The tours are offered free of charge to schools and local community groups, however the images and models used to provide a more interactive learning experience must be purchased by the department.

Facility Updates:
The butterfly facilities require updating so that we can ensure we provide our butterflies with the very best conditions for their development during metamorphosis. The emergence cages used are currently 18 years old. We must purchase new emergence cages that are mold-resistant and that can be cleaned thoroughly each year, preventing disease in the population. We also have a butterfly nursery, which requires new humidifiers this year.

The Impact

Carleton University maintains close ties to the greater Ottawa community. Through events like the Butterfly Show, Carleton University can provide educational experiences beyond the classroom. The Butterfly Show enhances and further showcases the Carleton University campus experience to the patrons of the show who come each year with their families. It is an annual event that many families look forward to around the Thanksgiving season.

During the Butterfly Show, the Department of Biology has partnered with Let’s Talk Science to offer talks to school or community groups who are interested in turning their visit to the Butterfly Show into an even more educational experience. We also provide craft tables for our youngest visitors. The educational posters in the lobby of the Nesbitt Biology Building remain on display even after the Butterfly Show event is over as the greenhouses are open to the public all year round (live butterflies only present during the Annual Butterfly Show). We appreciate everyone and all who come!

The Team

Ed Bruggink

Event organizer

Ed Bruggink is the founding father of the Carleton Butterfly Show and has been the main organizer of the event since the show began 20 years ago. Ed, his wife Joanna and his family all contribute greatly each year. As the greenhouse manager of the Biology Department, Ed works tirelessly to make sure that everyone has a great time during the show, including the butterflies.

Rick Cavasin


Rick is a local photographer and naturalist and an expert on Ontario butterflies. The amazing butterfly wall display in the Nesbitt Biology Building lobby features Rick’s photographs of all local butterfly species. Rick’s work can be seen at www.ontariobutterflies.ca.

Kathryn Finter


Kathryn is an artist from Ottawa who for over 15 years has volunteered with the Butterfly Show by lending her expertise to the craft table set up in the lobby for visitors. Kathryn’s work can be seen at: www.illuminations.ca.

Jen Skanes

Volunteer Educator

Jen is a Carleton graduate and a former coordinator for Let’s Talk Science who still comes back every year to educate visitors on butterflies.

Carleton University Biology Society


The Carleton University Biology Society (CUBS) is a student led organization created to bring together Carleton’s Biology students from first through fourth year. Volunteers from CUBS are essential to the Butterfly Show – they help facilitate the event throughout the week as well as over the weekends.

Let’s Talk Science

Volunteer Educator

The Department of Biology has partnered with Let’s Talk Science to offer tours to school or community groups who are interested in turning their visit to the Butterfly Show into an even more educational experience. All butterfly show tours are presented by Let’s Talk Science volunteers.

Let’s Talk Science is a national volunteer organization of graduate and upper year undergraduate students in fields related to science and engineering. The mandate of this organization is to increase literacy and interest in science, engineering, and technology through hands-on activities in classrooms, community groups, and public events. To find out more about Let’s Talk Science, please visit their website at: outreach.letstalkscience/Ottawa.

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