Rare fossil butterflies to be displayed during Fla. Museum ButterflyFest this weekend

October 15th, 2008

Editors note: A full schedule of events follows this release.

Photos available

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Museum of Natural History ButterflyFest visitors will have the opportunity this weekend to see four rare butterfly fossils not normally on public display.

The fossil butterfly exhibit is one of the many activities and workshops taking place during the museum’s annual butterfly festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Housed in the Florida Museum’s invertebrate paleontology collections, the specimens are four of about 50 known fossil butterflies in the world.

“Butterfly fossils are rare because they have extremely delicate exoskeletons,” said Florida Museum of Natural History Invertebrate Paleontologist Roger Portell. “Insect fossils are preserved under unique conditions.”

Three of the museum specimens were discovered in an ancient ash bed in Colorado. The very fine-grain sediments of these beds preserved the delicate butterflies. The museum’s other butterfly fossil is preserved in amber from a deposit in Colombia and currently is being described as a new species by McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity Director Thomas Emmel.

Portell said the extremely fragile butterfly fossils must be protected from excessive light, which is why they are not normally displayed. “This really is a rare opportunity for anyone interested in seeing fossil butterfly specimens as the exhibit will only be available for the two days of ButterflyFest,” he said.

Butterflies and moths, or Lepidoptera, are insects that are thought to have evolved rather recently, possibly in the Late Cretaceous Period, 65 to 70 million years ago. Most fossil butterflies date from the late Eocene to Oligocene epochs, 38 to 23 million years ago.

The Florida Museum’s third annual ButterflyFest is a free event featuring a variety of family-friendly activities focusing on butterflies, birds, bats and other wildlife. The weekend includes tagged monarch releases, butterfly-friendly plant sales, including more than 30 native species, educational games and crafts, photography and gardening workshops, presentations, tours and more. Limited space for fee-based tours and special workshops is still available. For more information, visit www.flmnh.ufl.edu/butterflyfest or call (352) 273-2064.

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Media contact: Paul Ramey, 352-273-2054, pramey@flmnh.ufl.edu

Florida Museum of Natural History
ButterflyFest Entertainment and Activity Schedule
Oct. 18-19, 2008

Presentations

Biodiversity and Butterflies
Saturday, 11 – 11:45 a.m.
Speaker: Thomas Emmel

Join the director of the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, Thomas C. Emmel, and discover the world of butterflies. Witness dazzling photographs of some of the world’s most beautiful and rare butterflies. Explore how more than 20,000 species of butterflies are distributed on six continents, how they live, reproduce and contribute to the diversity of life and the balance of nature.

Backyard Animal Talk
Saturday, Noon – 12:30 p.m.
Speaker: David Reed

We are fortunate to live in a region of Florida where wildlife is still very abundant, even in an urban setting. Join David Reed for a look at the wildlife common to our area that can easily be seen from your backyard, a trip to a nearby preserve, or on your daily commute to work. Reed will highlight some of the creatures unique to our area, as well as some that have been introduced from other places.

Swallowtail Seasons: The First Butterfly Big Year
Saturday, 1 – 2 p.m.
Speaker: Robert Michael Pyle

At the end of 2007, award-winning author and conservationist Robert Michael Pyle unplugged his computer and headed to the field to find, experience and identify as many of the more than 800 species of butterflies recorded in the United States and Canada as possible.

During this year-long Butterfly-A-Thon, Pyle is traveling to various localities to observe and make notes on these butterflies. Along the way, he has updated his adventures and travels with handwritten dispatches on the Xerces Society and Orion Society web sites. The literary fruits of this project will be published in 2010. Pyle will discuss some of his intriguing field adventures and the current status of butterfly populations and habitats – particularly in view of climate change.

Hummingbirds in Alachua County: A Breakdown of Recent Observations by Species
Sunday, 10:15 – 10:45 a.m.
Speaker: Earl “Bubba” Scales

Only one species of hummingbird breeds east of the Mississippi River — the Ruby-throated Hummingbird — and the vast majority of them migrate south across the Gulf of Mexico each fall. Yet every winter in Florida and the region, at least several different species of hummingbirds are observed at feeders and nectaring plants. Join Gainesville native “Bubba” Scales for a history of Florida hummingbird observations and a discussion on their status, distribution and habits. Discover the efforts to collect data on hummingbirds by reported observations and capture and banding.

Monarch Caterpillars and Butterfly Gardening
Sunday, Noon – 12:30 p.m.
Speaker: Jaret Daniels

Find out what is munching on your fennel or passion vine. Join butterfly specialist Jaret Daniels and discover how to develop a successful and productive butterfly garden, while identifying some of the more common butterfly larvae found in Florida.

Butterfly Conservation: Saving the Rainbow Resource
Sunday, 1 – 2 p.m.
Speaker: Robert Michael Pyle

There was a time families spent afternoons with picnics and walks in the forest to enjoy and explore the sights of butterflies and birds as well as the tranquility of nature. However, with the constant rush in this everyday world, such serenity is uncommon and has resulted in a condition that the writer Richard Louv has called “nature deficit disorder,” especially among the young.

This alienation, coupled with the decrease of available habitats, has resulted in the disappearance of some butterflies. Come and hear scientific and natural history author Robert Michael Pyle and learn how to make use of butterfly-based recreation to bring people back to nature. Pyle will show how an appreciation for butterflies and moths and their importance in ecological niches can help develop priorities for habitat conservation and saving this Rainbow Resource.

Quirky Habits of Butterflies
Sunday, 2:30 – 3:15 p.m.
Speaker: Alana Edwards

Everyone knows that butterflies are beautiful, but most are unaware of some of the fascinating things butterflies do, including how they find a mate or interesting ways they protect themselves against predators. Join Alana Edwards and discover these “quirky habits” through beautifully captured photo and video images.

Demonstrations

The Bounty of Bats: Forgotten Pollinators
Saturday, 10:15 – 10:45 a.m.
Speaker: Allyson Walsh

Join the Director of the Lubee Bat Conservancy and discover the world of bats. Explore the vital roles bats play in ecosystems and economically as pollinators and seed dispersers.

Monarch Releases
Saturday, 1 and 3 p.m.
Sunday, 3:30 p.m.

Witness the release of monarch butterflies and discover the great journey ahead of them. ButterflyFest is participating for the second year in the national Monarch Watch program, which tracks the butterflies’ migration south.

Attracting Birds with Native Plants
Saturday, 2:30 – 3 p.m.
Speaker: Michael Meisenburg

Join Michael Meisenberg as he shares plant cuttings and teaches how to make native plant selections that will attract birds and increase your enjoyment of backyard bird watching.

Butterfly Bingo
Saturday, 10:45 – 11:15 a.m., 4:30 – 5 p.m.
Sunday, 10:45 – 11:15 a.m., 4:30 – 5:00 p.m.

Enjoy a new take on Bingo and learn to identify common southeastern butterflies by their special colors and wing features.

Bees and Pollination
Sunday, 11 – 11:45 a.m.
Speaker: Stephanie Tarwater

With habitat loss and fragmentation, pesticide use and the invasion of other species, bees are constantly in peril. Join Stephanie Tarwater of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as she discusses the economic importance of bees as pollinators and the impact these insects have on our everyday life. See what you can do to help protect these special insects.

Wildflower Walks
Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., every hour on the hour

Enjoy a leisurely 20-minute guided walk through the Museum’s outdoor Florida Wildflower and Butterfly Garden. Discover Florida’s native wildflowers and their importance as host and nectar plants for native butterflies with a member of the Florida Master Gardener Program.

Each tour will leave from outside the front entrance of the museum.

Exhibits

Butterfly Rainforest
Saturday & Sunday, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

The Butterfly Rainforest is a living exhibit that supports hundreds of butterflies from around the world. This screened enclosure is planted in subtropical and tropical trees with waterfalls and a walking path. Inside the Rainforest, exhibit stations help visitors understand various butterfly behaviors they will witness during their visit. There is an admission fee to enter the Butterfly Rainforest.

Fossil Butterflies
Saturday & Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

ButterflyFest attendees will have the rare opportunity to see four exceptional butterfly fossils housed in the Florida Museum of Natural History collections.

Because they have extremely delicate exoskeletons, insect fossils are preserved under unique conditions.

Butterflies and moths, or Lepidoptera, are insects that are thought to have evolved rather recently, possibly in the Late Cretaceous, 65 to 70 million years ago. Most fossil butterflies date from the late Eocene to Oligocene, 38 to 23 million years ago.

McGuire Center Lepidoptera Exhibits
Saturday & Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

A variety of exhibit experiences inside bring to life the science of Lepidoptera, starting with “What is a Butterfly?” and ending with conservation issues worldwide. The exhibit centerpiece is the “Wall of Wings,” which showcases more than 13,000 images of butterfly and moth specimens and photographs, as well as film footage from around the world. Other exhibits explore stories from around the globe and interpret science occurring in the impressive collections facility and research laboratories.

Performances

Danscompany of Gainesville
Saturday, noon – 1 p.m.

The Danscompany is entering into its 26th year as a non-profit dance organization and provides a chance for its members to perform on a semi-professional level, while also giving back to the community.

Eric Redmond, Pianist and Vocalist
Saturday, 10 a.m. – noon
Sunday, noon – 1 p.m.

Enjoy as Eric Redmond performs piano music from a variety of styles and eras, drawing on his 20-plus years of experience as a performer, composer and arranger.

Gainesville Suzuki Players
Saturday, 1:30 – 2:30 p.m.
Sunday, 1 – 2 p.m.

Discover the sounds of the Gainesville Suzuki Players, a children’s string group under the artistic direction of Sonnhild Kitts.

Hogan School of Traditional Irish Dance
Sunday, 11 a.m. – noon

Join instructor Allison Hogan and the students of the Hogan School of Traditional Irish Dance for a fun-filled performance.

Klezmer Katz
Sunday, 2 – 3 p.m.

The Klezmer Katz blend the sound of Miami Big Band Klezmer music and Eastern European traditional Klezmer music for a lively and interesting assortment of tunes.

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