Why raise butterflies?

Why should we raise butterflies, Monarch and other species?

We can save them from predation.  Wasps, birds, spiders, predatory stink and assassin bugs, ants, and many other critters kill them, egg through adult.  Predation, from egg through chrysalis, isn’t about survival of the fittest.  Eggs, caterpillars, and chrysalises cannot run away and escape.  This is about saving many that otherwise would die.

We can save them from disease.  Disease is rampant in nature.  From simple bacterial diseases to the horrific viruses, such as Nuclear Polyhedrosis Virus, when we bring in eggs and caterpillars we can prevent many of them from becoming diseased.  Raising butterflies in a clean environment with clean sanitary practices saves many from death.

Gulf Fritillary caterpillar dead from NPV
Gulf Fritillary, dead from NPV

We can save them from parasites like OE, a protozoa that parasites Monarch and Queen butterflies as well as other butterfly species that host on milkweed.  By bringing in eggs and disinfecting them as well as disinfecting the plants we feed them, OE can be avoided.

OE spores on a wild Queen butterfly
OE spores from a wild Queen butterfly

We can save them from parasitoids.  Tachinid flies, chalcid wasps, and other parasitoids lay eggs in or on caterpillars or soft chrysalises.  By bringing them in before they are infected, we can protect them.

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NOTE: Disease, parasites, parasitoids, and predation are tools that nature uses to keep the species, as a whole, alive.  You can learn more about nature and death by clicking on this sentence.

When we raise caterpillars and others see what we do, it ignites a passion in others.  This passion leads others to become aware of butterflies and their enemies as well as their needs.

A private butterfly garden with dozens of species of host plants as well as dozens of species of nectar plants
A private butterfly garden with dozens of species of host plants as well as dozens of species of nectar plants

It teaches our children to respect and protect butterflies and our environment.  As we raise caterpillars, our children learn from us.  They learn the importance of building and protecting habitat, not just for butterflies, but also for other pollinators.

Jonathan discovers a Gulf Fritillary caterpillar in the garden
Jonathan discovers a Gulf Fritillary caterpillar in the garden

It teaches us the dangers of pesticides.  Many of us grew up in an era when pesticides were encouraged, far beyond the amount of encouragement today.   Pesticides were considered crop-savers.  Once we start raising butterflies and see the effect of pesticide, first hand, we re-evaluate our use of pesticides.  We either limit the types of pesticides we use or we totally eliminate the use of pesticides.  We begin to educate others, including nurseries, and (as a result) fewer pesticides are used on plants.

A crop duster returns from spraying crops with pesticide
A crop duster returns from spraying crops with pesticide

People share butterfly host and nectar plant seeds and plants.  Many enthusiasts give away seed, some asking for a self-addressed-stamped-envelope.  This adds to the number of pesticide-free butterfly plants that are grown for butterflies.

envelopes stuffed with (free) butterfly host and nectar plant seed
Envelopes stuffed with (free) butterfly host and nectar plant seed

It is a passion that is fun.  Because we clearly enjoy it, others become interested in what we do.  We are able to teach others about butterflies.  As a result, butterfly numbers increase.  More habitat is planted.  More people use fewer pesticides.  Even the choice of which government official receives our vote can be affected by whether or not they choose to protect our environment.

Why raise butterflies?  There are numerous reasons, all good for butterflies and nature in general.

 

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