Shopping Around for a Butterfly Farmer?

If you are comparing butterfly prices and services offered, PLEASE be aware that as of Spring 1999 there are suddenly over 30 companies advertising butterflies for release events on the Internet. We have nothing against these companies: we can't possibly raise enough butterflies to meet the demand ourselves; we were sold out every weekend from April to October in 1997 and 1998!! Unfortunately, it is alarmingly simple for anyone to put up an Internet website and announce they are open for business, without ever having raised a caterpillar. Butterfly farming, like any animal husbandry or alternative agriculture venture, requires training, experience and experimentation to be able to successfully meet orders. During the 1998 butterfly release season, a number of companies found themselves unable to meet their orders due to disease, poor husbandry techniques, or simple lack of livestock and/or host plant food. Often these companies failed to notify their clients of any problems until a day or two before the scheduled event--far too late to be able to obtain replacement butterflies. We feel responses to the following questions are important for you to consider before entrusting such an important part of your special event to ANY butterfly farmer.

1. How long has your company been in business?
The Butterfly Conservancy was formed in 1996, and is in its fourth year of commercial butterfly farming, following a year of experimentation in rearing and shipping techniques for release events and educational programs. In addition, Sheri Moreau, the director, has a BS degree in Agriculture: Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences, and has reared butterflies and wild silk moths as a serious hobbiest and trader since 1964. If desired, we will gladly put you in touch with some of our previous, satisfied clients. We have also compiled a list of unsolicited testimonials from our customers.

2. How are your butterflies shipped?
Believe it or not, some companies simply toss the butterfly release containers loosely in an ugly (but free!) overnight express shipping box with either no cushioning material, or inadequate cushioning (paper towels are not soft enough to cushion the butterflies enroute to you!). Some companies do not use thermal protection material and cold or warm gel packs to ensure the butterflies do not freeze in the airplane or broil in the delivery truck during shipping. After much experimentation, our butterflies are shipped double-boxed, with the heavy-duty inner box being presentation-quality, suitable for taking directly to your event. Our butterflies are cushioned with soft batting and tissue paper, are surrounded by custom-made thermal material, and are further protected with an 8 ounce, cold or warm gel pack.

3. What sort of guarantees do you have?
Our butterflies are guaranteed to arrive on time, alive, and ready to fly--or your money back! If the overnight express shipper fails to deliver your butterflies in time for your event, we will refund your full payment. (Unfortunately, we cannot give refunds for inclement weather.) Since butterflies have a very short life span (2-5 weeks, depending on species), occasionally a butterfly may expire naturally enroute to your event. Extra butterflies are included with every order just in case one or two inadvertently don’t make it, however, our clients report a better than 98% survival rate. We never ship too old, too young, or tattered butterflies. We'd rather set them free to repopulate our own neighborhood!

4. Can your release containers be engraved and color-coordinated to our event? How much does this cost?
Some companies claim that release envelopes are not adequate protection for the butterflies; after much experimentation, we disagree. Scientists and zoos have been “papering” butterflies safely for over a century. We feel the release boxes provided by those companies are generally too large, and the butterflies “rattle” around inside, and thus can damage their wings and antennae. Moreover, our unique envelopes are engraved with the sentiment, font, and clip-art of your choice, on designer paper coordinated to your event, at no extra cost, making them a wonderful momento of your special day for your guests to take home, and for you to add to your scrapbook!

5. Do you work with other companies if you inadvertently find you can’t meet an order?
A family business effort, The Butterfly Conservancy maintains Release of Wings Butterfly Farms in California, Ohio and Minnesota. In addition, we have friendly relationships with butterfly farmers in Texas, Florida & Massachusetts to whom we frequently refer clients and with whom we trade butterfly livestock. Whenever possible, we prefer to ship butterflies within their naturally occurring geographic range. As an example, although Red Admirals occur throughout the Northern Hemisphere, we believe it is undesirable to ship California-origin Red Admirals to Georgia, so we would send you Red Admirals originating from the nearest farm within the natal range/flyway of Georgia Red Admiral butterflies (Florida or Massachusetts).

6. Do you abide by State and Federal laws on the shipping of butterflies? Do you have a permit to ship to our release location?
The Butterfly Conservancy has permits for all 48 continental United States, and abides strictly by USDA and State restrictions on the interstate transshipment of insects. No Monarch butterflies are EVER shipped across the Rocky Mountains, nor will we ship you species which are not native to your area. Some companies “cheat” on these permits and restrictions--would you want illegal butterflies at your event?

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