Butterflies: Flying Billboards

A new fad is catching on: it's the practice of using live butterflies to advertise events. Thousands of colorful, fluttering butterflies are being released at fairs, weddings, and other celebrations, and for school projects. These bright spots of jewel tones are also being used in advertising to spotlight new products. Those who are interested in participating in these activities should consider some of the following concerns:

Do you know the source of the butterflies? Butterflies can be purchased through commercial science supply sources or from regulated breeders. Some are acquired through unregulated sources. There are also butterflies that may be threatened or endangered. Collection of adults or larvae of listed butterflies is not only illegal, but can severely deplete populations.

Butterflies raised in an area of the country where winter migrations do not occur may lack the migratory instinct if they are shipped to colder climates. Butterflies nectar and lay eggs on specific species of plants. Species not native to your area are not likely to survive without their associated plant species.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is responsible for the interstate shipment of butterflies. Species that require permits include Giant Swallowtails, Monarchs, and Mourning Cloaks. Safe arrival of these butterflies may not always occur. Purchasers have received shipments of deformed butterflies. High mortality is also a by-product with butterfly shipments.

Consider other forms of symbolic gestures to signify important events. Butterfly gardening or sowing native wild flower seeds can be a way to provide a living symbol depicting the joy of an experience or school project.

For more information on this issue check out the North American Butterfly Association web site.