Fla. Museum to release tagged, live Monarchs at ButterflyFest Oct. 13-14

October 5th, 2007

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History plans to release about 500 live, tagged Monarchs during ButterflyFest Oct. 13-14, with the hope that some of these butterflies may be located in Mexico during the annual overwintering of this remarkable species, or back on the University of Florida campus next spring after their return trip.

McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity staff will release approximately 30-50 Monarchs hourly from the entertainment stage, accompanied by live commentary about the research project.

“ButterflyFest visitors will be participating in the start of a grand experiment,” said McGuire Center Director Thomas Emmel. “No one knows how they will try to transit to the Mexican overwintering grounds, because these are the first releases of locally tagged Monarchs in this area.”

Each butterfly will carry a tiny, unique, round, adhesive paper tag on its lower wing. The coded tags include a return e-mail address and telephone number, and are used to track individual Monarchs to help better understand their migration path.

“Each year, the tags are distributed to hundreds of volunteer tagging teams across the country, and thousands of observers in the U.S. and Mexico watch for the tagged butterflies to report as part of the “Monarch Watch” program,” Emmel said. “These marked butterflies may be subsequently spotted along the Gulf Coast or in northern Mexico, en route to their overwintering colonies in central Mexico during their four- to six-week journey south.”

Emmel will lead two group trips to Mexico this winter to witness the amazing phenomenon of hundreds of millions of Monarchs at these colonies. Participants during the Jan. 14-18 and Feb. 29-March 4, 2008, trips may be lucky enough to find a tagged Monarch in one of the colonies, Emmel said.

Advance tickets are on sale for the second-annual butterfly festival, which features a variety of activities for all ages including live entertainment, crafts and demonstrations, field trips and behind-the-scene tours, exhibits by area non-profit organizations, and vendors offering food as well as butterfly and garden gifts and plants.

Several nationally known musicians and a number of community groups will perform throughout the weekend. Highlights include Jimmy Ibbotson, former lead singer for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band who sang “Mr. Bojangles;” Jesse Winchester, an accomplished musician whose songs have been recorded by many artists, including Elvis Costello, Jimmy Buffett and Wynonna Judd; Jonathan Edwards, whose hit “Sunshine” made it to No. 4 on the Billboard charts in 1972; and The Claire Lynch Band, an award-winning bluegrass band considered one of the best in the country.

Community groups scheduled to appear include the Cross Creek Cloggers, Ethnic Dance Expressions, Tai Chi & Whirling Tiger Kung Fu, Gainesville Suzuki Players, Danscompany of Gainesville and Hogan School of Irish Dance.

All performances are included with the ButterflyFest one-day general admission of $5 for adults and $2 for ages 5-12. Advance tickets may be purchased at the Florida Museum located on the University of Florida campus or by calling (352) 846-2000, ext. 275. The museum accepts cash, Visa, MasterCard and American Express.

To learn more about this exciting educational opportunity, or for more information on ButterflyFest, call the Florida Museum, (352) 846-2000.

Writer: Jessica Thurmond
Media contact: Paul Ramey, (352) 273-2054, pramey@flmnh.ufl.edu