Monarch Madness: Not Just a Pretty Face


We’re celebrating #MonarchMadness here at Moody Gardens® in anticipation of the grand opening of Flight of the Butterflies 3D  on March 9 at the MG 3D Theater. First things first…let’s learn the basics about this amazing little creature with a little crash course on Monarchs, starting with a brief biology lesson!

A Monarch butterfly isn’t just your average pretty face, they are complex migratory insects with powerful body parts that help them navigate and migrate long distances. In other words, they were born to travel! This is quite impressive considering they weigh less than a paper clip (or less than half a gram).


Your typical Monarch is made up of four wings and have six jointed legs. Not all Monarchs are created equal though. There are some very visible differences between the males and females, starting with their wings. Females have a bit of a darker color and their veins are wider. In contrast, the males are smaller and have two distinct black spots near the bottom of each wing. Males might have been shortchanged when it comes to their body size but they make up for it with an added level of charm–special glands that release pheromones to attract the females.



One of the Monarch’s most impressive feature is their vision. What might look like one eye is actually called a compound eye and it’s made up of thousands of tiny circles called ommatidia. Its purpose is to gather light and process visual information. Butterflies can perceive ultraviolet and polarized light or  light waves that move in only one direction and the Monarchs have the ability to sense that direction. Imagine how useful that would be if your main purpose was to migrate! 


Another impressive feature is their senses. Chemoreceptors are spread out all over them and gives them the ability to taste and smell using their entire bodies, including their antennae and wings. They like to use this ability to smell nectar and pheromones (in the case of the female).  The females are equipped with extra Chemoreceptors on their legs which aides them in the search of milkweed plants, the home of their newborn eggs. Another way they sense is through hairs that cover the majority of their bodies. These hairs let them “touch” and give them important information about movement such as wind, gravity and the position of their other body parts. Being hairy is a good thing in the butterfly world since this is extremely important information to have when in flight.

Next time you see a Monarch, see if you can spot some of these features. And remember, these delicate looking insects are more powerful than they appear. We’re not saying they’re super heroes or anything but we’re also not saying they’re not…

Tune in tomorrow to learn about the Monarch Butterfly Life!


Monarch Madness at Moody Gardens!

It’s March and that usually marks the beginning of a little thing called March Madness, but at Moody Gardens we’re focusing on a different kind of black and orange…the Monarch Butterfly! Join us as we learn more about this amazing creature featured in our new film Flight of the Butterflies 3D, opening March 9th at the MG 3D Theater.

Monarch Madness

Our Dedication to Saving the Rainforest


The Rainforest Pyramid, which opened in 1993, is a ten-story glass pyramid that recently underwent a massive enhancement project to make it better for both visitors and its animal and plant residents. The Rainforest Pyramid has shared the wonders of the Asian, African, and American rainforests with millions of visitors. It has also brought attention to the dangers rainforests are facing and the endangered species that inhabit them.


The popular Moody Gardens attraction is a great entertainment destination, but it is also the center point of Moody Gardens rainforest conservation efforts. Over the years, Moody Gardens has shown its dedication to saving the rainforest in a variety of ways.


In the last decade, Moody Gardens purchased 2,215 acres of rainforest in Panama for protected reserves. We have also collected over $69,000 for research and conservation in Central and South America to help preserve the diminishing rainforests in those regions.


Moody Gardens contributed to purchasing land in Peru to help complete the ReNuPeru Ethno Botanical Garden at the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research.


Other funds from Moody Gardens have been donated to support the Belizean Ministry of Natural Resources as they try to save the Mountain Pine Ridge Forests area from the devastation caused by a massive Pine Beatle infestation. We also contributed to the Rainforest Foundation to help indigenous people preserve their land from being taken over.


Moody Gardens contributes to helping save the rainforest through our animal programs and our research efforts. We stand by our mission: “Moody Gardens is a public, non-profit educational destination utilizing nature in the advancement of rehabilitation, conservation, recreation, and research.”


To learn more about our rainforest conservation efforts, come visit our Rainforest Pyramid. You can make a trip out of your visit by staying with us at the Moody Gardens Hotel, one of the best places to stay in Galveston.

Moody Gardens Research Programs Part 2

Garibaldi Fish Swimming Among Kelp

As we mentioned in our earlier blog post, Moody Gardens is dedicated to our mission of supporting plant and animal programs. We are a public, non-profit educational destination utilizing nature in the advancement of rehabilitation, conservation, recreation, and research. We’ve already discussed the Medical Plant Program, the Beneficial Insect Program, and the Coral Propagation Program, but we are also dedicated to our Saving Elkhorn Coral program and our partnership with United States Fish and Wildlife.

Saving Elkhorn Coral

Recently, a Moody Gardens biologist and twenty other U.S. and European scientists embarked on one of the greatest coral conservation efforts ever undertaken. They traveled to Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, to use their knowledge to help save Elkhorn coral. Elkhorn coral is listed on the federal government’s Endangered Species Act, and is also essential for the growth of existing and future coral reefs. Without Elkhorn coral, the reef builder, coral reef, and its inhabitants could be lost.  The lost of the coral reef would be immense for a variety of reasons. They serve as storm barriers for the coastline, are a potential source for pharmaceuticals, and support 85% of the tourism in surrounding areas. Moody Gardens is hoping to support the cause through captive coral sexual reproduction and husbandry techniques.

Partnership with United States Fish and Wildlife

When certain animals or live specimens are confiscated from people who possess them illegally, Moody Gardens assumes care responsibilities. Moody Gardens will care for these animals while their cases are pending and handle long-term care by assisting with relocating them to other facilities. Animals included in this partnership include turtles, Panamanian golden frogs, Cuban Amazon parrots, and the Wyoming toad.

Learn more about the many research programs Moody Gardens is involved in by visiting us on your next family weekend getaways in Texas. Exploring the Aquarium Pyramid and Rainforest Pyramid is an opportunity to learn and have a good time.

Moody Gardens Research Programs Part 1

Queen Angelfish
There is more going on at Moody Gardens than what visitors get to experience. We are doing tons of important work behind the scenes to pursue our mission of supporting plants and animals. Moody Gardens has teamed up with various universities, medical experts, and professionals to create research programs for medical research and other conservation efforts.

Medical Plant Program

Through the Medical Plant Program, Dr. E. Arthur Bell and the Moody Gardens Horticultural department have collected and grown vegetation from the rainforest that may be helpful in controlling diseases, such as cancer and AIDS.  Plant cuttings are sent to the University of Houston for data research to study certain healing properties.

Beneficial Insect Program

With the unmatched help of Sam Houston State University, the Rainforest Pyramid functions without the use of pesticides. This is made possible by an effort to match insects with certain bacteria to balance nature. The program’s hope is that biological control of insects will one day replace pesticides worldwide.

Coral Propagation Program

Coral reefs have the second-most diverse population of species, second only to the rainforests. Since so many species depend on coral reefs for survival, the conservation of this natural resource is vital. Through our captive coral propagation program, we conserve coral specimens for use in public aquariums to reduce the need for acquiring wild specimens. Moody Gardens is also a part of a research program with John Hopkins University. The results may have significant direct applications in paleontology, biochemistry, and possibly an indirect effect on medial research.

Learn more about the many research programs Moody Gardens is involved in by visiting us on your next family weekend getaways in Texas. Exploring the Aquarium Pyramid and Rainforest Pyramid is an opportunity to learn and have a good time.

Our Dedication to Saving Animals

saving animalsMoody Gardens is dedicated to the care and survival of animals. We go to great lengths to make sure we provide a comfortable home for our animal residents and provide assistance to animals in need.

Moody Gardens has worked with the Marine Stranding Network and other organizations to help rescue injured animals and rehabilitate them. Moody Gardens has helped to provide aid in the recovery and release of marine animals, such as dolphins and turtles, back into the wild.

A permanent home is also provided for animals that may not be able to survive in the wild, as in the case of Porter. Porter was a newborn abandoned harbor seal pup that needed treatment for dehydration and injuries. After the Marine Animal Lifeline nursed him back to health, he did not have the survival and hunting skills necessary to be released back into the wild. He is now a permanent resident of the Aquarium Pyramid’s North Pacific Exhibit.

At the Seahorse Symphony Exhibit in the Aquarium Pyramid, visitors are reminded of the quickly diminishing seahorse population. It’s estimated that each year around 20 million seahorses are taken from the ocean to be used as souvenirs, pets, and for medicine. Project Seahorse is a collaborative international effort that focuses on conservation habitats, educating visitors, and making a difference for the seahorse population.

The efforts of Moody Gardens have been as widespread as South America, where a rescue team helped save a colony of Caribbean Flamingos after their home was attacked by jaguars. Also, the King Penguins at Moody Gardens are a genetically desirable group that have been part of a breeding exchange program with other institutions, helping to ensure their species survival.

Come visit the King Penguins and Porter the seal at the Aquarium Pyramid on your next family weekend getaway in Texas. Don’t forget to stop in and see the variety of animal residents at the Rainforest Pyramid! We look forward to seeing you soon.

Why 2012 Was the Year of the Bat

Each year, Moody Gardens makes an effort to bring attention to parts of the world and certain animals in need of support. This past year was the Year of the Bat, as declared by the United Nations. Throughout the year, a variety of events were held at Moody Gardens to bring attention to this important animal, which is often overlooked.

Moody Gardens to raised money to donate to Bat Conservation International (BCI). BCI conducts and supports science-based conservation efforts for bats around the world. They work with many other organizations to combine research, education, and direct conservation to maintain bats’ environments and survival far into the future.

One of the first events at Moody Gardens was the Bats Are Doin’ It: A Fundraiser for Animal Lovers.  The event was held in February at the Moody Gardens Visitor Center and tickets ranged from $50-$90. Proceeds from ticket sales (including raffles) and donations were donated to Bat Conservation International. The event also brought attention to the ecological importance of bats, such as eating harmful insects and pollinating crops, such as bananas and mangoes. The purpose of the event was not only to raise funds, but also to increase appreciation for the misunderstood species.

A second Year of the Bat event held at Moody Gardens was the Bats for Bats Fundraiser. Starting in October and going on for several weeks, Moody Gardens held online auctions of sports memorabilia. Items such as a Texas Rangers’ Michael Young autographed photo were sold and the proceeds donated to BCI.

Now that 2012, the Year of the Bat, is over, we are looking forward to any future conservation efforts Moody Gardens will be making!

Come visit us on your next family weekend getaways in Texas, and learn more about the animals of the Aquarium Pyramid and Rainforest Pyramid. Be sure book your stay at the Moody Gardens Hotel.

Philippine Travel Update 6-11 November, 2012

Read Intro Post Here

By Moody Gardens Animal Husbandry Manager Greg Whittaker

We arrived in Subic Bay at about 2 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 8, after a 43-hour door-to-door adventure that re-routed us through Los Angeles and Seoul, Korea.

However, our checked luggage went on the original routing through Honolulu and Guam, and didn’t arrive until 1 a.m. on Saturday. With a little rough beginning, we had the entire team assembled at noon on Friday, Nov. 9, and began the real work.

The project team includes Roy Drinnen and Greg Whittaker from Moody Gardens, Dirk Peterson from, Bart Shepherd from California Academy of Science, Eric Hovland from Florida Aquarium, and Bianca Espinos and Jonathon Apurado from Ocean Adventure.

Friday afternoon was spent snorkeling the shallow reefs adjacent to the Camayan Beach Resort and Nabasan Point. We were discouraged as there was evidence of significant environmental stress in both areas and the reef closest to the resort was mostly dead and covered in algae.

We concluded that the heavy typhoon season’s high tides, large waves and heavy rains had caused silt deposition over large areas of reef. Those that were shallow and had poor water flow were not able to recover, and once the corals died back the algae quickly took over.

Saturday was spent diving the deeper reefs off Nabasan Point, Tago Beach and Grande Island. We also surveyed the artificial habitat created by the polyethylene tensar net system that encloses the massive marine mammal complex.

Everyone was much more optimistic after seeing the conditions of the reefs in these zones as the coral condition and diversity indicated the environmental conditions were suited to maintaining them.

Stay tuned for next update!

Moody Gardens to develop collaborative conservation project in the Philippines

Earlier this month, members of the Moody Gardens animal care team traveled to the Philippines to begin a conservation partnership with a marine aquarium facility in Subic Bay.

The project partners Moody Gardens with a nonprofit organization known as Wildlife In Need (WIN). This project pairs resources with conservation needs in one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet.

WIN is the nonprofit arm of Ocean Adventure, Southeast Asia’s only open water marine park. It is nestled between one of Luzon’s only remaining intact primary growth rainforests and a marine-protected area that includes two small bays on the southern shore of the mouth of Subic Bay.

There are three primary goals for the trip – to formalize a Memorandum of Understanding, develop a coral reef conservation program, and explore terrestrial conservation opportunities.

The Moody Gardens team is working with additional field conservation partners including the California Academy of Science, the Florida Aquarium and to design a land-based coral nursery lab, and begin long term coral reef habitat monitoring as the first step towards active restoration work.

Following the trip, Moody Gardens’ staff will provide direct and in-kind support, as well as technical assistance, in building the coral nursery lab. Their ultimate goal is to establish a facility similar to the SECORE lab at the Curacao Sea Aquarium. It will support technical workshops and regional reef restoration efforts at the same time that it serves a public education role as an aquarium exhibit.

Please refer back to the Moody Gardens blog  for updates from the field.


Bats for Bats Weekly Online Auction

2012 is Year of the Bat and we’re celebrating it with Bats for Bats! We’ll be having a series of online auctions for the coming weeks. Each sports memorabilia was generously donated to support bats and their important role in the environment. The money raised from these items will be donated to Bat Conservation International to fund crucial education and awareness.


Houston Astros Maxwell & Johnson Autographed Baseball


Dynamo Fan Pack with Two Tickets for any 2013 game



Texas Rangers’ Michael Young Autographed Photo



Authentic Texas Tech football autographed by Tommy Tuberville
Bid here:
(bidding ends 11/13)
UT Football with authentic Mack Brown autograph