Worst New Wedding Idea – the Butterfly Release


The news in this recent New York Times op-ed piece
is weird and a tad alarming.  I didn’t even know butterflies were big
business, much less that brides are paying $95 per dozen for our winButterflyged
friends to be "released" to much fanfare. ($300 will buy them the full
"Fill the Sky" package.)  Following in the sad and misguided tradition
of releasing doves,  impressive photo-ops are created and what else matters, after all?  But because we
humans are capable of learning from our mistakes (think kudzu) some are thinking twice about this practice, and there’s controvery:

So we have a classic industry-conservation conflict: the North American
Butterfly Association versus the International Butterfly Breeders Association.
The conservation group advocates banning the release of commercial butterflies
(an unlikely development) while the breeders deny that there’s a problem (a
risky wager). So what’s the answer?

get really interesting when the author suggests that butterflies for
student projects be subsequently killed – "We owe the butterflies a
quick and painless death" – and says:

If this is too harsh a lesson to teach in a culture that assiduously avoids
confronting death, then a savvy teacher could work with students to collect
local caterpillars, raise them and release the butterflies whence they came. That’s a real lesson in science — and ethics.

Discuss among yourselves.



  1. Here in the UK there is a fashion amongst eco-type parents to buy butterfly farming kits for their children – you get a box to open with a voucher to send off for eggs and then watch the process of caterpillar, chrysalis and then release the buterflies.
    Every single kit I have seen has failed as the caterpillars die off at some point, possibly/probably though neglect – and it seems to be a really bad idea – but popular with parents who want their kids to see nature.

  2. Several years ago, I went to one of those rich people weddings that straddle the line between incredibly gorgeous and incredibly tacky. Needless to say, the butterfly thing fell on the latter side of that line. Most of the guests were just incredulous. Not a few of the buterflies were dead in their little boxes.

    The open bar was sweet, though.

  3. I just watched an episode of Wild Florida here on a PBS station and they covered this topic. There was a butterfly farm in N. Central Florida that hatched them out and then sent them to releases for weddings or memorial ceremonies. The ones that they did show released were for a hospice memorial service and the butterflies came out just fine.

  4. The first thing that pops into my mind is that it would be fun to (sneakily) substitute a box of bees at a butterfly release wedding.

    But people could get hurt!

    Oh, shut up.

  5. Let me rant for a moment! For every kudzu running rampant there are hundreds of wonderful, introduced genera. Butterflys are free! Wa Wa Wa, get over it!

  6. Sue: Love your site and the opportunity to share thoughts! Fairly new to it so thanks for your reply! I still don’t see what is so wrong with releasing the butterflys so if someone can clarify, please do so!

  7. It may be an urban legend but I read somewhere that some lamebrained bride actually spraypainted the poor butterflies to match her maids dresses. Ouch.

  8. I think this journalist did a good job of talking about butterfly releases (see reference below). Butterflies are also released for memorials and many other celebration. Please get educated by visiting the Association for Butterflies website (www.forbutterflies.org). Both Monarchs and Painted Ladies travel thousands of miles to winter over in Mexico. What’s a butterfly release to them. A free ride to a new location.

    Butterflies can find food, mates here Monday, July 02, 2007
    Do the butterflies have any chance of survival in our area?
    That question was posed to me by a reader after the recent release of painted-lady butterflies in the seventh annual butterfly release and celebration of life ceremony sponsored by PinnacleHealth Hospice. Those butterflies have an excellent chance of survival and even producing a next generation in the midstate.

    In addition to being common in and native to our region, the painted lady is the most widely distributed and common butterfly in the world. Populations are found on all continents except Australia and Antarctica. There’s a good reason that another common name for the species is the cosmopolitan. As with any widespread butterfly species, the painted lady’s food needs are met by a wide range of plants. The adults take nectar from many composite plants and are especially attracted to some of the most common, including thistles, asters, cosmos, blazing star, ironweed and joe-pye weed. While the caterpillars of some butterfly species can be picky in their choice of host plants, the painted-lady larvae are happy to munch on the leaves of more than a hundred plants, including thistles, mallows and legumes. Butterfly guides describe the habitat of the painted lady as, well, cosmopolitan — including gardens and sand dunes. The recently released painted ladies — and I feel safe in assuming some of those ladies were gentlemen — should have no problem finding mates here. In the midstate, we generally see one to three flights from May through early October. Because of all these characteristics, the painted lady is a favorite species among companies providing butterflies for release and student butterfly-raising projects.

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