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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Thousands attend annual ButterflyFest

<p>Sarah Whitin, 6, looks at some moths and butterflies on display at ButterflyFest at the Florida Museum of Natural History on Saturday.</p>

Sarah Whitin, 6, looks at some moths and butterflies on display at ButterflyFest at the Florida Museum of Natural History on Saturday.

The monarch butterfly wings strapped to 11-year-old Ashley Fuller's back had a span that doubled the width of her frame and reached the top of her head. 

"I've been raising skippers, butterflies and moths for nine years now," said Ashley, of Sebastian, Fla. "I just love the caterpillars and the stages they go through, from cocoon to butterfly."

The Florida Museum of Natural History's sixth annual ButterflyFest spread its wings Saturday, and Ashley was one of the 2,600 attendees that day.

The free and public family-friendly festival was held Saturday and Sunday and featured presentations, activities and crafts that focus on pollinators like butterflies, bats, birds and bees.

Last year the total attendance count for the museum's signature outreach event was 5,400 while this year it reached 5,229.

Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator Leeann Bright said the festival stands out because it is family-oriented but appeals to all generations.

The festival's keynote speaker was Naomi Pierce, a Harvard scientist speaking about the symbiotic relationship between ants and caterpillars, Bright said.

Presentations included a talk on Japanese butterflies and moths, Caribbean bats, local hummingbirds and entomophagy - the practice of eating insects.

In addition to the presentations, the inside of the museum bustled with 19 tables featuring nonprofit organizations, pollinator costume arts and crafts, a pollinator parade and butterfly bingo.

The front lawn of the Cultural Plaza had food and merchandise vendors, jugglers and free activities like a sack race and butterfly release.

Jaret Daniels, assistant director of exhibits and public programs, said a traditional highlight of the festival is the annual plant sale with more than 120 species of plants.

"We really try to promote habitat gardening," he said. "We want people to understand they can make a significant difference in their own yards by planting wildlife-friendly plants."

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The festival also offered activities that charged admission, including the Butterfly Rainforest, a photography workshop and a behind-the-scenes tour of the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity.

A common misconception, Daniels said, is that because the event is branded "ButterflyFest," it's just about butterflies.

"If you're interested in nature in general and having a fun time in the community, this is the place to be."

 

Sarah Whitin, 6, looks at some moths and butterflies on display at ButterflyFest at the Florida Museum of Natural History on Saturday.

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