Frequently Asked Questions about The Butterfly Conservancy's Butterfly Releases
1. How many butterflies should we order?
This really depends on the style/theme of your event as well as your budget. If you are planning a mass release from a butterfly box, you should order a minimum of two dozen butterflies, or two Butterfly Bouquets. A display release can have as few as six butterflies in a decorated and flower-filled net cage, and still be both beautiful and symbolic. For an individual release, you can provide one butterfly per guest, or one for each invited couple/family, or one for each member of the immediate family or wedding party. A good rule of thumb is two dozen butterflies per 50 guests. Feel free to call us: we’re always delighted to discuss your wedding or special event plans with you and to offer options for releases. Moreover, we have no minimum order size--we’ll gladly supply your special day with 2 or 200 butterflies: your choice!!

2. What butterfly species can we get?
Butterflies are classified as plant pests because, in their larval stage, they eat plants. Thus, there are State and Federal laws regulating which species are allowed to be shipped across state boundaries. These species have been determined to be wide-ranging, non-threatened, and with no adverse agricultural impact. The Butterfly Conservancy raises over 20 species of butterflies and moths in our Release of Wings Butterfly Farms located in California, Minnesota, Ohio and Florida, but not all species can be shipped to each state. If available, we can provide Monarchs, Painted Ladies, Red Admirals, and Mourning Cloaks to any location. We have permits for each of the 48 continental states, and abide by all State and Federal transportation restrictions. If you desire to release a species which we are not permitted to ship to your release location, we will gladly refer you to one of our associate farmers in your geographical area who will be able to assist you.

3. How much will it cost? Do you have a guarantee?
As noted above, how many butterflies you choose to order will depend on the style of your Butterfly Release, as well as your budget. Prices for our butterflies, with tax rate (if applicable) and packaging and shipping charges, are listed under Costs on our Release page. Our butterflies are guaranteed to arrive on time, alive, and ready to fly, or your money back! Please be aware, however, that deposits are non-refundable. It takes 6-10 weeks to rear a butterfly from egg to adult, and we process your packaging and origami envelopes well in advance of your event date to be certain that you will receive exactly what you order.

4. Will we receive adult butterflies or pupae/chrysalides?
At the Butterfly Conservancy, we ship ONLY adult butterflies for release events. That way you don’t have to mess around with assembling pupae hatching containers and waiting for the butterflies to emerge--hopefully on time, without injury!

5. How are the butterflies shipped? Are they safe?
Your butterflies will be shipped overnight express to arrive the day before your event. Each has been hand-fed, exercised, and inspected prior to shipping, ensuring they are healthy, strong and ready to fly when you receive them. The butterflies are packaged in individual containers, cushioned by tissue paper and cotton batting, and placed inside a white, presentation-quality gift box. The white box is surrounded by our specially designed thermal packaging to ensure the butterflies do not overheat or freeze enroute to you. Finally, a second, heavy-duty, overnight express box further protects your butterflies from harm. We have had a near-100% success rate (i.e., no butterflies died enroute) with our proprietary, thermal double packaging system. In the unlikely event that a butterfly might expire enroute, we always ship extras with every order.

6. What do the release containers look like?
A sample, engraved origami release container can be mailed to you at your request. These release containers are usually used during a wedding ceremony in lieu of rice or birdseed. Origami containers are always personalized to your event: we have a wide variety of exciting papers, and will engrave the containers with the sentiment, font, and clipart of your choice, at no extra cost to you! For non-traditional weddings, transparent glassine release containers can be embellished with ribbons and stickers. Please feel free to call us to discuss your wedding plans and release ideas!

7. How can the butterflies live in the release containers?
The release containers are not airtight, and there is plenty of oxygen for the butterflies. In fact, the technique of “papering” butterflies has been safely used for over a century! The confined space keeps the butterfly’s wings from being damaged, and, when placed in a cool, dark environment, causes the butterfly to enter a reduced metabolic state. University research labs routinely keep papered butterflies in refrigerated conditions for up to a year, warming them up weekly for feeding and exercise sessions.

8. What do we do when the butterflies arrive?
When you receive the package of butterflies, fool-proof instructions (honest!) explain what you need to do: simply remove the white presentation box full of adult butterflies from the shipping box and place it in a cool, dark place (such as a closet) until you are ready to transport the butterflies to your event. If you are planning a mass or display release, you will need to transfer the butterflies to the release box or display cage, and easy instructions are included. In the case of mass and display releases, the butterflies are always shipped in transparent glassine containers to make it easier for you to transfer them.

9. What do we do if a butterfly escapes indoors?
First, don't panic!! Butterflies always fly toward the brightest thing in a room that they can see: either a window or a light fixture. Shut the door to the room where the escapee is, and turn off all the lights except one, or draw all the curtains except over one window. The butterfly will fly to the lighted area. Contrary to what you have always been told, you will NOT hurt the butterfly if you gently cup your hand over it, and/or grasp it with its wings closed, right next to the body, and place it back in the container or cage or box. Always be sure your hands are clean and dry before touching a butterfly.

10. How can we get good photos of the Butterfly Release?
It is very important that you discuss your butterfly release plans with your photographer in advance of the event. Together, you should choose a photogenic background for the butterfly recipients, with the guests arranged in a semi-circle in front of them. The photographer should strive to take close-up shots of the butterflies landing on people, rather than photos of them flying away. Also, you can put a few butterflies in a refrigerator for 20 minutes, then place them on a bouquet or wedding gown, etc. The butterflies will spend the next 30 seconds or so slowly vibrating their wings as they warm up enough to fly: ample time for a good photo!

11. What if it rains or is below 60°F the day of my release? Can I have an indoor release? Will I get a refund?
Butterflies cannot fly in the cold or the rain. You will not be able to release them outside, and instead will have to postpone the release until later that day, or the next day. You can place the packaged butterflies in your refrigerator for a day or two to keep them safe and comfortable while waiting for the weather to clear up. Some people do have indoor releases in well-lit facilities. These types of release are fraught with danger for the butterflies, because they can easily be stepped on, and they become disoriented indoors. They will head for overhead lights and windows, and may injure their wings in attempting to escape. A better alternative is to make a simple, temporary display cage from bridal veiling wrapped around a wood or PVC frame, a birdcage, a wrought-iron stool or table, etc. (I use this technique all the time at wedding shows!) Place the frame on top of a large piece of bridal veiling, add a bouquet of flowers, and draw the veiling up to the top, trying not to create folds where the butterflies can get trapped. Slip the butterflies inside, then tie a ribbon and bow around the gathered veiling at the top of the cage. The butterflies can live in a display cage for several days, and can be easily released outside by untieing the bow and dropping the veiling. Unfortunately, we cannot give a refund on your butterfly order in the event of bad weather. They would not survive a return shipment back to us, nor would we be able to resell any that might make it. (We recommend shipping adult butterflies only one time to ensure their safety.)

12. What happens to the butterflies after the Butterfly Release?
The butterflies will stay in the general vicinity of their release site for several hours or even several weeks, as long as there are flowers for them to nectar from, and host plants on which they can lay their eggs. If host plants are not available, however, the butterflies will move on after a day or two. Despite their fragile appearance, most butterflies are strong fliers, and can easily average 30-50 miles a day.

13. How long do butterflies live?
The average lifespan of an adult butterfly is 2-5 weeks. Exceptions are the autumn generation of certain butterfly species which overwinter as adults by hibernating or entering reproductive/metabolic diapause (Monarchs: 6-8 months), and butterfly species which have developed strategies and techniques for better nutrition and ingest liquified pollen, tree sap, and fruit juices in addition to nectar (for example: Mourning Cloaks/Camberwell Beauties, and Heliconiad/longwing butterflies: 7-9 months).

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