BUTTERFLY FARMING AND CONSERVATION

The best way to protect plant/animal populations is to preserve their natural habitat. Bug Under Glass directly supports butterfly farms/insect ranches that help protect natural habitat. Learn how this works below.


 

The Artist’s background in conservation:

I grew up outside of Boston in a suburban neighborhood with an extensive pine forest surrounding my home where I explored the natural world.  This natural playground played an enormous roll in my understanding and appreciation of nature.  Today, most of this habitat has been destroyed or fragmented into housing developments and it’s sad the children growing up in the same area will not experience nature the same way I did.   Unfortunately, this is happening around the world

My love of insects and concern for the environment directed me to a Master’s Degree in Conservation Biology that focused on insects (specifically ants + fragmentation).  You can read about my research here.  I care very deeply about conservation and the insects used in my art.

 

WHAT WE DO NOT SELL:

I do not sell rare or endangered animals of any kind and have a strict criteria for what I offer in my shop. I will not sell preserved mammals, reptiles or amphibians that have become popular recently on EBAY, ETSY and brick-and-mortar oddities stores. There is overwhelming evidence most of these creatures are taken illegally from the wild. For example, the phrase “ethically sourced” appears on many listings of dead bats for sale but almost all are illegally taken from the wild. Be careful of stores that sell these items and make such claims. 

 

WHAT WE DO SELL:

Ethically sourced museum quality specimens that come from butterfly farms, insect ranches or independent breeders.  Learn more about this at bottom of page.  We are licensed with US Fish & Wildlife Service and comply with all US and International Import/Export Laws.

 

What is butterfly farming?:

Butterfly farming is the commercial production of live butterflies/moths in controlled environments to supply stock for universities, zoos, insectariums, nature centers, butterfly houses, and for butterfly releases at weddings, funerals and special events.  

 

Where are these farms located?:

There are hundreds of butterfly farms around the world, with most located in tropical areas near rainforests where breeders have easy access to butterfly food plants.  The most successful commercial farms are located in South America, Central Africa, Madagascar, China, Southeast Asia, New Guinea and Australia.

commercial butterfly farming operations

How does butterfly farming work?  

The first stage of butterfly farming involves obtaining a few fertile female butterflies, which are placed in a large enclosure with their required host plants, where they lay their eggs.  A single female butterfly can lay between 100 to 500 eggs in her lifetime, so few female butterflies are required to start these captive butterfly populations.   Butterflies in the wild have only a 5% survival rate from egg to adult, while butterflies that are raised in captivity have a 95% survival rate.  Once the caterpillars pupate some are collected to be sent to flying butterfly displays while the rest are allowed to turn into adult butterflies so they can mate and produce the cycle all over again. Deceased butterflies are gathered for museums and specimen collectors. Because host plants are needed for rearing the larvae, the butterfly farm is dependent upon a large parcel of land that is forested.  This enables adjacent communities to derive a livelihood from the forest makes them want to preserve it. 

 

butterfly farming
Photo Credit: The Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre
Photo Credit: The Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre

Photo Credit: The Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre

 

How does butterfly farming/ranching help conservation?

In third world countries, where a majority of rainforest habitat is, the difficulty of protecting forests has been lack of economic opportunities for rural people because these populations depend on the land to make an income – with the most common jobs being agricultural farming, cattle ranching or logging.  Unfortunately, all of these practices lead to the destruction of tropical rain forests.  

The practice of butterfly farming is unique because it combines economic development and conservation; and when introduced as an economic alternative to traditional farming and managed properly, it can have a profound impact on the environment and communities.  In contrast to agricultural farming, cattle and logging, butterfly farming is dependent upon native plant species and a butterfly farmer must keep areas of land intact to  provide a food source for the caterpillars.

While a majority of breeders cannot make a full living off of butterfly farming, the extra income has been shown to make notable improvements in food security, primary health care and education. 

Additionally, and more importantly, butterfly farming can transform a communities attitudes about the forest.  For example, in Tanzania before the Kipepeo Butterfly Farming Project  started in 1992, the local people had a very negative view of the forest.  96% of the farmers were unhappy with the forest and 54% wanted it completely cleared for settlement.  (Gordon, 2000)  This was due in part because the protected forest harbored many animals, such as elephants and baboons, that destroyed the farmers’ crops.  In a survey 5 years after people saw the impact of the butterfly farms on their community, a new survey now showed only 16% of the people surveyed wanted the forest cleared!  

Lastly, when butterfly/moth habitats are protected, many other plant and animal species also benefit indirectly from this protection.

Each year an area of tropical forest equal to the size of England is destroyed.  In the Amazon alone, over 11.6 million hectares of rain forest have been cleared for ranching.

 

Who starts butterfly farming projects?

Typically a government agency or NGO (non governmental organization) typically start these programs.  Conservation organizations The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund have both included butterfly farming projects in their conservation programs.