The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia
Friday, 25 August 2023 13:29

Butterfly release scratched at UT Arboretum festival after pushback on ecological wisdom

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Lydia_at_Butterfly_Festival.jpgCome join the fun at the annual UT Arboretum Society Butterfly Festival from 10 a.m to 1 p.m on September 9 at the UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center and Arboretum. The event will include educational activities about protecting these pollinators.  Photo courtesy University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture

UT grounds planned butterfly release but festival will fly

OAK RIDGE — The University of Tennessee Arboretum canceled a planned release of painted butterflies originally scheduled for its upcoming annual butterfly festival, but the pollinator-positive educational event will go on to the joy of families and nature enthusiasts across East Tennessee.

“While the fun-filled and educational event is still scheduled for Sept. 9, a mass release of painted lady butterflies is no longer scheduled as part of the event,” according to the UT Arboretum Society.

The 8th annual festival will occur from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center and Arboretum, 901 S. Illinois Avenue, Oak Ridge. Plenty of activities will provide educational opportunities for the public to learn how we can all protect our pollinators, according to the UT Institute of Agriculture.

“The butterfly species previously planned for release at the festival was the painted lady, Vanessa carduii. Butterfly releases have been held at past festivals with the intention that the more people understand an organism, the more they are inspired to help protect it. Though there has not been definitive scientific research about the impact of painted lady butterfly releases, the UT Arboretum Society has decided to join many other scientific organizations, such as the North American Butterfly Association and the Smithsonian Institute, in not promoting this practice,” according to a release.

The release of commercially raised butterflies may spread diseases and epidemics to native butterfly populations, according to NABA.

Donna Edwards, who has voiced her concerns about previous and planned butterfly releases, commended the UT Arboretum Society for its decision to forego the butterfly release and focus on the many educational activities about pollinators provided at the festival.

“The people at UT who were involved in this decision are setting an example of responsible environmental stewardship that hopefully will be followed by other organizations or groups that are considering holding butterfly releases.” Edwards said.

While butterflies are beautiful and enchanting creatures, they are also essential for healthy ecosystems, and they need native plants and pesticide-free habitat to survive. Planting native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers that are caterpillar host plants and that provide essential nectar for butterflies and moths is the very best way to help them, ” she said.

While the painted butterfly release has been canceled, there is still much to enjoy about the festival, which was covered by Hellbender Press last year.

Michelle Campanis, education programs coordinator for the UT Arboretum, said, “We hope you will join us as we learn and grow together celebrating our pollinators. Other planned activities will take place including the UT Insect Zoo, butterfly tents, educational lectures, and children’s craft activities.”

A free pollinator plant will be provided by Tennessee Naturescapes for each family as long as the supply lasts and additional pollinator plants will be available for purchase. Food vendors and craft vendors will be on site.

Professor Laura Russo will speak at 10 a.m. on “Wild and Native Pollinators in Your Backyard.” Stephen Lyn Bales will start his presentation at 10:50 with a talk entitled “All Weeds Are Not Weeds. Just Ask a Butterfly!” Both presentations will be inside the air-conditioned Auditorium.

Parking is in designated areas of the UT Arboretum adjacent to the event and on a first come first serve basis. The entrance fee is $5 in cash (to facilitate entry) per carload. All other expenses can be made with cash or credit card. The gate will be open at 9:30 a.m. The event will take place rain or shine. Children’s craft activities will be available at a cost of a $1 ticket per activity or $10 for all 10 crafts.

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