Florida Museum of Natural History visitors will have the opportunity to discover the significant role butterflies and other pollinators have in the natural world during the 12th annual ButterflyFest on Sunday, Oct. 8.
The free event from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. includes live butterfly releases, workshops and activities for all ages. This year’s theme is “Wings Over Florida – Biodiversity in Our Backyard,” and focuses on best conservation practices for backyard wildlife and habitats.
“ButterflyFest is science and fun together in one festival,” said Catherine Carey, Florida Museum public programs coordinator. “It raises awareness of the role of pollinators in our everyday life in a different environment.”
New this year, the museum is partnering with the University of Florida Natural Area Teaching Laboratory to host a BioBlitz, a 24-hour event in which scientists and volunteers locate, identify and inventory local plant and animal species found in the conservation area. During the festival, Emma Weeks, a UF assistant research scientist, and Lary Reeves, a UF entomology doctoral student, will host bug catching and identification tours.
Other activities include a large three-day plant sale Oct. 6-8, photography workshops, children’s area, pollinator parade for costumed visitors, pollinator and gardening workshops, and food and merchandise vendors.
Jaret Daniels, director of the museum’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity and a UF associate professor of entomology and nematology, will lead workshops on butterfly gardening from 11:30 a.m. to noon and monarchs and their migration from 2 to 2:30 p.m.
“Butterflies are important biological indicators of a healthy environment,” Daniels said. “These beautiful, charismatic bugs can pollinate flowers, assist in nutrient recycling, and protect other habitats and species.”
This year’s plant sale features more than 150 species of pollinator-friendly plants as well as edible plants from Natural Treasures Farm & Nursery.
In the pollination area, children and their caregivers can participate in four interactive stations that simulate the pollination process of bats, birds, bees and butterflies. Kids have the chance to win prizes while discovering through hands-on activities the important role pollinators play in everyday life.
Photographers interested in capturing the perfect image can sign up for the “Picture Perfect Photography Workshop” Oct. 7-8 from 8 to 9:30 a.m. The workshop allows photographers to use a tripod and other equipment not normally permitted inside the “Butterfly Rainforest” exhibit. Museum staff also will be available to stage photos with newly emerged butterflies, and pre-registration is required. Participants must be 18 or older, and registration is $30, or $25 for museum members.
Participating nonprofit educational groups include the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Lubee Bat Conservancy, Plenty of Pit Bulls and the Society for Creative Anachronism. Guests will have the opportunity to touch live caterpillars displayed by the Southern Lepidopterists’ Society and a live arthropod petting zoo from the UF entomology department.
The LifeSouth bloodmobile is scheduled to be on-site accepting donations from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
While festival events and activities are free, regular admission fees apply to the “Butterfly Rainforest” exhibit: $13 for adults, $11 for Florida residents and $6 for ages 3 to 17. Admission is free for museum members and UF students with a valid Gator 1 card.
Free parking is available in the Cultural Plaza parking lot and garage. Visitors may purchase admission, plants and other items from the museum gift shops with cash or debit/credit cards, but are encouraged to bring cash. The museum does not have an ATM available on-site and some vendors may not accept credit/debit cards.
For more information, visit www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/butterflyfest or call 352-273-2064.