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FW: Butterfly farming Program for Guang xi, China?

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  • Pemberton, Robert
    Dear Governor Chen, I am writing in support of Peter Bernhardt s suggestion that butterfly farming may be an economic activity to assist Yachang s village
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 4, 2009

      Dear Governor Chen,


      I am writing in support of Peter Bernhardt’s suggestion that butterfly farming may be an economic activity to assist Yachang’s village neighbors.


      Considerations and methods used in butterfly farming.


      Butterfly farming is usually done in the tropical areas which have a favorable weather all year. The absence of butterflies in Yachang’s garden and pit area during a week’s visit last October suggests that the weather is not ideal all year. The lower elevation reservoir area had numerous butterflies during the autumn so maybe have a better climate for this purpose. A dependable water supply during the dry season would be important.


      Most caterpillars of butterflies have a quite limi ted range of plants on which they can feed and develop. The butterfly farmer would have to acquire these host plants, and may need to grow a different plant species for each butterfly species grown, although some rela ted butterflies share host plants. Some of host plants needed for Yachang’s desirable butterflies are not in cultivation, so they would need propaga ted from wild plants. The plants will need a good water supply, especially during the dry season, and fertilization to grow nutritious leaves for the caterpillars. Many of the plants would need shade or do better if grown under shade. The farmer would have to grow the plants some quantity to have enough leaf material to raise large butterflies in quantity.


      It is essential to protect the butterflies from predators, parasitoids and diseases. The adults are subject to predation by birds, while the eggs, caterpillars and pupae are attacked by predators, parasitoids (flies and wasp larvae that feed internally and kill them), and disease. The plants on which the caterpillars are grown need to be in a tight fine mesh screen houses, large fine mesh cages, or enclosed in fine mesh netting to exclude parasitoids and predators from killing the caterpillars. Adult egg parasitoids which are tiny wasps can be one millimeter in length so quite fine mesh is needed to exclude them.  They farmers would need to be able recognize diseases and try to prevent their occurrence and move quickly to limit their spread if infections occur. One successful method to avoid disease is to feed the caterpillars cut foliage which has been soaked in bleach (hypoclorate) solution then in clean water and a final hosing with water. Using cut foliage is more labor intense and requires larger numbers of host plants to be grown.


      The way that the reared butterflies are dealt with depends on the intended use. Some are shipped as pupae to living butterfly display houses, which have become abundant in North America and Europe, and occur in Asia as well. These butterfly houses receive regular, often weekly shipments of hundreds of pupae from both butterfly brokers and large scale growers. This is the high end of butterfly farming and requires more business knowledge and connections. For reared butterfly adults destined be dried display specimens, or for use in art work, they are usually put into glassine triangle envelopes and stored until sold or used to create pinned display specimens or crafts.


      My apologies for giving you more detail that you probably want or have time for, but I want to show that butterfly farming is a bit more complex than one would think. Some investment and training would be needed, but it could be successful enterprise.


      With Best Regards,





      Robert W. Pemberton PhD

      Senior Research Associate

      Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

      Coral Gables, Florida

      Phone: 954-475-6548

      Fax: 954-476-9169




      From: Peter Bernhardt [mailto:bernhap2@...]
      Sent: Wednesday, June 03, 2009 3:06 PM
      To: chen@... ; Bee Uni ted ; Jennifer Tsang; Pemberton, Robert
      Subject: Butterfly farming Program for Guang xi, China ?


      Dear NAPPC Members:


      During the Orchid Conference in Guang xi Zhuang semi-autonomous region (May 19 - 26) we were addressed by  Dr. Chen, Zhangliang, the Vice Governor of the Region.  Vice Governor Chen received his PhD in Moelcular Biology (trans-genic research) from Washington University , Missouri .  He is most interes ted in developing projects that will help alleviate rural poverty and bad agricultural practices in his region.  The Vice Governor wants to pursue programs in eco-tourism and sustainability.


      Guang xi is a magnificent region of heavily-fores ted , karst limestone mountains.  The government has already designa ted one mountainous section as the Yachang Orchid Reserve and Chinese tourists are frequenting this site.  During my stay I was most impressed by the local diversity and density of sub-tropical butterflies.  Many native butterfly species appear to prefer to "puddle" where water buffaloes wallow.  Large swallowtails, in particular, are so common they invade hotel rooms in Baise City (where we held our conference).  I have sugges ted to the Vice Governor that local people be brought into a business-government suppor ted franchise for the rearing and pinning of selec ted butterfly species.  This program would follow similar programs described for Papua New Guinea and part of Indonesia in which eggs and/or caterpillars are "loaned" to local formers who rear the larvae on appropriate food plants.  They are resold to the government or business upon pupation.  The business then allows adults to mate and then kills and pins specimens for sale.  If you shop in Beijing you frequently find expensive cases of pinned butterflies and other insects for sale so there appears to be a domestic and foreign market.


      Vice Governor Chen is most interes ted in such a project as Guang xi is the major producer of commercial silk so local economy may have an affiliation for the rearing of helpful insects, in general.  He's asked for more information on how to start up such a project but I have no knowledge and can't suggest useful references.  Does anyone out there have personal experience, literature and/or dependable websites rela ted to this industry?  If so, please write Vice Governor, Chen directly <chen@...>.  




      Peter Bernhardt

      Department of Biology

      3507 Laclede Ave.

      Saint Louis University  

      Saint Louis , MO 63103


      Telephone (work): 314-977-7152


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