Raising Butterflies

Raising butterflies can be done for two reasons:

  • Many times this idea starts with helping kids gardens to take 'root' while encouraging a learning experience about nature. Watching the life cycle of a butterfly can be done inside or with the kids outside.

  • For many others the idea of rearing butterflies is a commercial endeavor. Have you ever been to a special event where there may have been a butterfly release, such as a wedding? These butterflies were commercially raised. There are things that need to be known if one is attempting this at home.
Raising Butterflies

It is important to be aware of the difference of the two different mind-sets. If you are just wanting to enjoy watching the butterfly life cycle as a learning experience click on the how to raise butterflies page.

This page continues on the responsibility of raising butterflies for commercial purposes:

There are conflicting views as far as the impact this will have on the environment. Not enough time has passed since this trend started. So far there is no evidence showing a negative impact of possibly posing a threat to natural wild populations. If anything, many believe it helps the ever disappearing butterfly populations.

The fear is, however, that commercial populations can get out of control and effect the local butterfly population and vegetation where damage is severe, especially by an exotic butterfly. An even bigger concern is that a new introduction of parasites and diseases could be a potential threat, again effecting butterfly populations.

An example of parasites invading butterfly populations is one that is a common concern for both the Monarch and Queen butterfly. Both are a milkweed butterfly.

It was discovered in the 1960's where butterfly populations fell prey to a protozoan parasite called Ophryocystis elektroscirrha. This parasite was found to completely debilitate both farm raised and wild butterflies.

Infected Butterflies:

  • Emerge from their butterfly pupa with difficulty
    and have problems expanding their wings.
  • Tend to be smaller
  • Are shorter lived

The disease passes when spore fall from wings of infected females as they lay their eggs.

As the butterfly larva hatch and eat their egg and their host plant milkweed, they then become infected.

Studies have shown that since the time Ophryocystis elektroscirrha was discovered it has been found in every Monarch butterfly population since the 1960's throughout the world.

Monarch butterfly and Ophryocystis elektroscirrha

Although most reading this information will not attempt to commercially raise butterflies, it's good information to know. If you ever find yourself wanting butterflies released at a special event, buy only from an authorized seller that is aware of the USDA restrictions.

Related Articles:

Another parasite known for the destruction of butterfly life.

Emerging Butterfly
The forth stage of the butterfly life cycle.

Butterfly Larva
The Caterpillar - needing plenty of host plants for energy.

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