BROOKSVILLE — Marc Minno thinks that if you're a butterfly lover living in Hernando County, you should consider yourself lucky. When it comes to sheer numbers and diversity of species, this just happens to be one of the state's prime habitats for the showy winged creatures.
"Hernando is an amazing place for butterflies," offered Minno, a supervising regulatory scientist for the St. Johns Water Management District and author of several books on Florida butterflies.
"You have a combination of several things needed to attract a lot of different species — a diversity of trees and shrubs, plus lots of different soil types,'' he said. "There are maybe three other places in the state that are as good, in my opinion."
Minno and fellow butterfly and wildflower expert Don Stillwaugh will be among several guest speakers at this weekend's Chinsegut Birding and Wildlife Festival. Given the recent rains and warmer weather, butterflies should be out in fairly strong numbers, he said.
"It's been a little slower than most springs because of the hard freezes we had during January," Minno said. "But it doesn't take long for them to catch up once it gets warmer."
A Pennsylvania native, Minno has been fascinated with butterflies since he was a child. But once he moved to Florida, he quickly began to appreciate how much the state's biodiversity and climate attracts not just native species but migrating butterflies as well.
"In south Florida, you'll find butterflies migrating from Cuba and the Bahamas," Minno said. "And when it gets cooler you'll find quite a few species from the northern states as well."
Minno notes happily that more and more homeowners are interested in having butterfly-friendly plants in their back yards, and he gladly offers tips on what to plant to festival visitors.
"It makes a difference, even if you plant only one or two plants," Minno said. "The payback is that they'll get a number of pretty visitors to their yard."
The festival begins at 6:45 p.m. today with a discussion on swallow-tailed kites by Ken Meyer, followed by a bat, owl, firefly and beetle prowl at 8 p.m.
Saturday's activities begin at 7:30 a.m. with live bird-banding, followed by a bird walk at 8:30 a.m. and a birds of prey program at 9. Programs will run throughout the day on topics such as sensing wildlife, basic birding, a wildlife puppet show, creating a backyard wildlife habitat, bird-box building, plus butterfly and wildflower walks. There will also be wildlife games and other children's activities from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The festival will conclude at 4 p.m. Admission is free.
Chinsegut Nature Center is just north of Brooksville off U.S. 41. For more information, visit myfwc.com/chinsegut or call (352) 754-6722.
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.