May 1, 2024

The Beauty of Nature at the Panhandle Butterfly House

Ensconced in Santa Rosa County lies a fantastical surprise for visitors, the Panhandle Butterfly House & Nature Center. As a program of the nonprofit Keep Santa Rosa Beautiful, the vivarium (natural habitat for butterflies) opens its doors each season to unveil the enchanting world of butterflies and other wonders of nature. Each Spring, the pollinator gardens are readied for visitors to immerse themselves in the breathtaking spectacle of colorful, fluttering wings. This year they expect to welcome over 200 newly emerged butterflies.

What goes into creating this ethereal experience? Louise Biernesser, program chair for PBH and secretary for Keep Santa Rosa Beautiful, sheds light on the intricate process, from ordering hundreds of delicate butterflies to thoughtfully curating educational displays. Each butterfly is a unique blend of beauty and grace, reminding volunteers and guests of the reasons for preserving their fragile existence.

Along with the awe-inspiring beauty, there lies a solemn responsibility. Biernesser explains that there are rigorous protocols in place to safeguard against bacterial diseases and parasitic threats that could jeopardize the delicate balance of this sanctuary. With strict adherence to standards set by certified breeders, every effort is made to ensure the well-being of the gentle inhabitants.

PBH serves as a source of education and conservation, offering visitors a glimpse into the lifecycle of these magnificent creatures. From egg to caterpillar, chrysalis to butterfly, each stage unfolds with its own unique charm, captivating hearts and minds alike. PBH is committed to housing only live Florida-native butterflies in the vivarium, allowing visitors to learn about the butterflies they may encounter in their backyards and throughout nature. In addition to live butterflies, guests can enjoy a collection of more than 300 mounted butterflies from all over the world, donated by local butterfly enthusiast Tom Grow.

Through engaging programs and interactive exhibits, PBH docents teach conservation and preservation, inspiring future stewards of the environment. A walk through PBH is a mesmerizing experience that transcends generations. Biernesser recalls the joy of witnessing children marvel at nature’s wonders as they frolic through the grounds.

The caretakers of the PBH have a vision that extends beyond the confines of the vivarium, encompassing broader initiatives aimed at nurturing a culture of environmental stewardship. From coastal cleanups to educational programs on native flora, Keep Santa Rosa Beautiful is committed to nurturing a harmonious relationship between humanity and nature.

As visitors meander along the mile-long nature trail adjacent to PBH, they are reminded of the interconnectedness of all living things, and the path towards a sustainable future where nature thrives, and humanity coexists in harmony.

PBH invites visitors to a place where beauty meets purpose, a tranquil place where dreams take flight on delicate wings.

Want to go?

What: Panhandle Butterfly House & Nature Center

Where: 4966 Henry Street, Milton,

Hours: Admission hours and days are dictated by butterflies and weather, but the vivarium is typically open from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, from late March through early December.

Info: 850-741-9077 or

Magi Thomley Williams, ACB, ALB is a corporate consultant, writer, speaker and trainer at Thomley Consulting. She can be reached at