August 30, 2015

Butterfly farming

Of course you’ve heard of growing your own crops, raising livestock, and possibly even worm farming. But butterfly farming?? Find out why some dedicated individuals are entering this unique profession.

Butterfly farming is obviously a very specialized niche in the world of agriculture, but why on earth would anyone do it? As the article below explains, it’s actually a labor of love – and one that has a real impact on preserving the valuable diversity of our ecosystem.

Even if you’re not a hard-core butterfly farmer, you can support your local butterfly population by growing flowers they like in your own garden, and allowing certain butterfly-friendly weeds, like milkweed, to grow outside of your garden space.

The numbers of wild butterfly species, especially the famous monarch butterfly, is dropping so alarmingly fast that the federal government, through the Fish & Wildlife Service, has actually stepped in to help….

The monarch is in danger of becoming the next scimitar-horned oryx: an animal previously widespread that’s now extinct in the wild. And like the oryx, an antelope-type animal that’s common in zoos, the monarch is still thriving when in a protected, closed environment. In the case of the monarch, that means farms. Yep, there are dozens of butterfly farms, all around the country, dedicated to breeding (and sometimes protecting) the quickly vanishing monarch.

“It is a lot of hard work and can be stressful, but it is also very rewarding,” says Jodi Hopper, a butterfly farmer who runs Wish Upon a Butterfly, based in Pennsylvania. Hopper raises mainly monarchs and painted ladies, but also breeds a few varieties of swallowtails and several other species. Her farm is a business, but an unusual one: the butterflies aren’t bred for food, or for conservation, but for release at celebratory events like weddings and quinceañeras.

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“On average, most butterflies only live about two to three weeks,” says Hopper. That’s a pretty short lifespan for a farmer; Hopper and other butterfly farmers will have to catch, package, and ship butterflies to their buyers within a very small window….

Butterfly farmers don’t really need wild butterflies any more than a rancher needs wild bison… but it takes a special kind of love of butterflies to become a butterfly farmer, one that sometimes extends to conservation efforts. The International Butterfly Breeders Association, or IBBA, of which Hopper is a member, makes it a point to have butterfly farmers step in and help with monarch breeding way-stations throughout the country. Their actions might include planting milkweed or flowers that produce nectar the butterflies like.

Butterfly farming is a strange little sub-branch of the agricultural community, but one that may find itself in the news more and more often as we try to save the wild species….

Read more at ModernFarmer.com

 

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About the author 

Rose S.

An avid gardener since childhood, I love sharing my passion for gardening with others! I have gardened in a number of different climates and settings, from large fenced garden plots, to tiny patio and container gardens, and I firmly believe that everyone can learn to grow at least some of their own food - no matter where you live. Growing your own food can help you take control of your own health and food supply, and there has never been a better time to get started!

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