Takes Flight 

The 11th annual event
 inspired understanding of
 butterflies' role in nature

A crowd of nearly 3,000 people, from toddlers with insect-inspired face paint to adults with camera lenses aimed at antenna, gathered for the 2016 ButterflyFest at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.

Activities and talks by scientists were focused on the theme "Why Butterflies Matter." The charismatic insects are ecologically important as environmental indicators of problems like climate change, and a flagship species for conservation. For decades, they have also served as model organisms for many areas of research. 

The festival included hands-on interaction with insects and other animals, special photography workshops in the "Butterfly Rainforest" exhibit and a pollinator parade for costume-clad visitors. 

One of the highlights of the event was the release of dozens of native butterflies, sent flying over the heads of wide-eyed spectators twice during the day.

"Butterflies are important biological indicators of a healthy environment and ecosystem," said Jaret Daniels, associate curator and director of the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity.

Museum scientists say butterflies help stimulate interest in nature...

...increase science literacy....

...and promote environmental stewardship.

Butterflies have inspired art and crafts for centuries.

Animals of the winged variety were joined by those with eight legs.

Share your photos from ButterflyFest with the hashtag #butterflyfest 

Florida Museum of Natural History photos and video by Jeff Gage and Kristen Grace

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