As they come fluttering by…

When butterflies attack!

When it comes to wild animals, I’m of the opinion that they are best left doing what they were designed to do. But that’s my personal view and one not shared by many. Plenty of folks feel that their wedding celebrations are enhanced by the addition of certain wild creatures.

Doves and butterflies quickly come to mind. Now I don’t necessarily think that releasing either of these animals harms them in any way. Heck, it beats letting environmentally destructive helium balloons fly, right? And seeing all those wings flappin’ away is quite a sight.

Amazing Butterflies explains,

If you are planning a butterfly release, you won’t receive the butterflies until the day before your special event. The live butterflies are shipped overnight in specially tailored packages designed for your individual needs. The butterflies arrive in a comfortable resting state until the day of the release. When the packages are opened at the event, light and heat will motivate the butterflies to fly.

Reputable companies feed the butterflies immediately before shipping them, and package them in individual padded containers. The containers are packed into a larger box fitted with a cool pack. The low temperature combined with low light levels keeps the butterflies calm and sleepy during the trip. A truly outstanding release company will ship butterflies that are indigenous to your area so that the freed insects will have plenty to eat and somewhere nice to sleep.

If you are thinking about releasing butterflies on your special day, consider the comfort of these cool little creatures. Butterflies love warm temperatures and bright sunlight, so kindness dictates that they be released only during warmer months. Monarchs, the most popular wedding release butterfly, will only fly when the temperature is above 62 degrees. And they prefer it even warmer than that! If your wedding is taking place in the evening, remember that butterflies need at lease half an hour of daylight to find their way to a comfy roosting spot.

What it boils down to, IMO, is this: Be nice to your butterflies and I bet they’ll be nice to you. A little human-animal interaction can be a really fabulous thing, if done right. Trust me, I know. When I lived in Costa Rica, large native butterflies would often stop and have a bit of a sit down on my flowered bikini. It was neat, to say the least!

10 Responses to “As they come fluttering by…”

  1. Twistie says:

    Just be very sure you go with a good company if you do the butterfly thing. The one wedding I attended where they did a butterfly release…a whole bunch of those butterflies were never going to fly again, if you get my drift. Check and double check.

  2. Never teh Bride says:

    Eek!

  3. Heathey says:

    I second Twistie. I saw it happen once. The worst thing was that not only were some of them already dead (and showing it,) some of them were still in the process, if you know what I mean. Everyone opened their little packages and all these butterflies sprang out — and then immediately fell to the ground. They lay there, flopping around sadly, and the bride and groom had to step over them on their way out.

  4. Bacon's Mom says:

    I’ve never heard of a release going well. And it can, actually, be environmentally damaging if the butterflies survive: will they have enough food? Will they muscle out the local butterfly population? Will the decimate another specie’s food source? It can end up like bunnies in Australia: no good for anyone involved.

  5. Lowy says:

    Bacon’s Mom is right – butterfly releases are terrible for the environment! Not only can the poor little suckers be damaged in transit or end up way outside their natural habitat, but it creates a market for butterfly poachers who can destroy precious colonies of Monarchs and other endangered butterflies. The North American Buttefly Association has more at http://www.naba.org/orgwed.html#2, including a statement from the National Wildlife Federation. I think it’s so sad that brides and grooms try to make a statement about how much they love butterflies, and the freedom they represent, but instead they end up doing something that is really destructive. No no no!

  6. Emily says:

    I used to go to a university with a chapel which was very popular for lavish weddings. Once following a dove release in chilly rainy weather, one poor sickly dove huddled for several days in the entryway of the nearby library for several days. It seemed immensely cruel to put these birds in such a position for some tacky, overpriced wedding. I would counsel anyone to think twice about doves.

  7. Never teh Bride says:

    Thanks for all the additional info, everyone! While I’m not personally a fan of dove/butterfly/etc. releases, I would hope that those people who do go in for that sort of thing check on whether the animals in question belong in the environment where the wedding will be held!

  8. Elizabeth Stacey says:

    Request to never teh bride:

    I have also seen the “release” and witnessed young children crying because their butterflies were dead. Please- please- either delete your apparent endorsement or publish a new update that makes it clear how traumatic this choice can be.

    The cruelty that is inflicted on these animals- being caged up until they wither away from lack of water, food, and air, all for the purpose of making some bride look fancy, is unconscionable.

    I love your column, and I truly believe that you would never have posted this if you knew how the butterflies serve to equate a wedding with pain-inflicted on innocent insects- and death. What bride- what thinking, feeling bride- would want this?

    Sincerely,

    Elizabeth

  9. Never teh Bride says:

    Eek, Elizabeth…you got it!

  10. Dale McClung says:

    My name is Dale McClung and this thread concerning releasing butterflies was brought to my attention by a friend of mine. I am a commercial breeder of butterflies and I thought I would address some of the concerns voiced on this website. My company is Florida Monarch Butterfly Farm located in St. Petersburg, Florida.

    # Heathey Says:
    January 24th, 2007 at 7:04 pm

    I second Twistie. I saw it happen once. The worst thing was that not only were some of them already dead (and showing it,) some of them were still in the process, if you know what I mean. Everyone opened their little packages and all these butterflies sprang out — and then immediately fell to the ground. They lay there, flopping around sadly, and the bride and groom had to step over them on their way out.

    The species of butterfly is not named, but this is a situation most likely of a Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui, butterfly release. The Painted Lady butterfly is by far the most numerious sold as they are so common throughout the U.S. and may be shipped to almost all states in the lower 48. Their price point is also considerably lower than Monarch butterflies, Danaus plexippus, the second most numerous provided. The United States Department Of Agriculture (USDA) actually regulates the butterfly release industry. For interstate shipment, only nine species of butterflies are permitted, and there are subregulations on several of the permitted species depending on natural range and also cooperation with the scientific community for observation and study.

    Personally, when I read complaining comments like these, I look for specifics concerning the release provided, but usually “butterflies” is listed only as the description followed by some disappointing observations. It would be nice to know the company providing the butterflies, the kind of butterfly, how they were packaged, the weather conditions, etc.

    However, the reason I mentioned the release failure, if you will, sited involved most likely Painted Lady butterflies is that it is common for these butterflies to alight on the ground when released. There are a number of factors, how long were the butterflies stored before release, what was the temperature (Painted Lady butterflies do not fly well below 75 degrees), were the butterflies shipped as adults butterflies or pupa. and so on. Usually the reason they do not fly well is either the temperature is low or the butterflies were shipped freshly eclosed and had not a day or so to exercise their flight muscles. If they were mostly dead, a reputable provider or butterfly farm will honor a guarantee for the butterflies to be alive. Our company honors this guarantee and to be honest, in ten years of providing releases, I have accumulated stacks of thank you’s and have had not a single complaint for a refund. However, we specialize in Monarch butterfly releases and inside the State of Florida, Florida native butterfly mixture releases rather than focusing on Painted Lady butterflies which are not considered native to our state.

    # Bacon’s Mom Says:
    January 24th, 2007 at 11:53 pm

    I’ve never heard of a release going well. And it can, actually, be environmentally damaging if the butterflies survive: will they have enough food? Will they muscle out the local butterfly population? Will the decimate another specie’s food source? It can end up like bunnies in Australia: no good for anyone involved.

    Most butterfly releases do go well. Otherwise, by now, there would be mountains of complaints, but there are really very few. However, complaints, like any negative, tends to be remarked as opposed to satisfied clients. The reason for releasing butterflies is so they will go out into the environment and help to maintain the population of the species in the wild. As far as the Painted Lady butterfly and the Monarch butterfly, both species are migratory. They completely vacate the northern breeding grounds for the winter months. The Painted Lady butterfly overwinters in the southwestern US and Mexico below the freeze line and Monarchs most famously in the overwintering roosts in Mexico, but also below the freeze line in Florida, southern California, and Texas where they are generational as opposed to overwintering as adults as the butterflies in Mexico do. Any butterfly caught above the freeze line for the winter is killed naturally. They are all dead. Neither species has an overwintering defense against freezing like Swallowtails, for example, that overwinter as pupa and actually have antifreeze chemicals in their system.

    You see, as far as the Painted Lady butterfly and the Monarch butterfly, above the winter freeze line which runs through south Texas, southern California, and central Florida, there is no local population. Every year the butterflies migrate from the south to the north and reestablish themselves for the summer breeding season. As far as the “bunnies” in Australia, rabbits were introduced, we work only with native animals. It is not a fair comparison.

    # Lowy Says:
    January 25th, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    Bacon’s Mom is right – butterfly releases are terrible for the environment! Not only can the poor little suckers be damaged in transit or end up way outside their natural habitat, but it creates a market for butterfly poachers who can destroy precious colonies of Monarchs and other endangered butterflies. The North American Buttefly Association has more at http://www.naba.org/orgwed.html#2, including a statement from the National Wildlife Federation. I think it’s so sad that brides and grooms try to make a statement about how much they love butterflies, and the freedom they represent, but instead they end up doing something that is really destructive. No no no!

    One of my favorite things is the comment on the NABA website about potential “poaching” in the Monarch overwintering colonies. Frankly, the NABA website is full of speculative inuendo and false information not based on science. I am only going to address the “poaching” issue here for brevity sake, but if anyone wants more scientific information, contact me privately.

    Monarchs east of the Rockies migrate each year to the Transvolcanic mountains of central Mexico. Monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains return to the California coast, where they roost in eucalyptus trees, Monterey pines and Monterey cypresses. One famous location is in Pacific Grove, California, a protected park now. The reason “poaching” is a ridiculous speculation is that during the winter, when the Monarchs are present, there is no market for butterfly releases, i.e. no reason to take them, and, if there was, without proper international USDA permits, if some crafty Mexicans were trying to sell them in the US, the butterflies would be siezed and destroyed by customs. Secondly, the overwintering grounds are protected and have been for years. In Pacific Grove, California, if you disturb the Monarchs, you are potentially subject to substantial fines. They are more valuable as a tourist destination and there are many tour groups of butterfly enthusiasts that make the trip each year both to Pacific Grove where they also have a butterfly festival every year celebrating the Monarch, and Mexico. In Mexico, each group must be accompanied by a guide and is not allowed to wander from the path or touch the butterflies. There are threats to the butterfly overwintering grounds though, but not for the butterflies, it is illegal logging of the trees they roost in, the roosts are in a very econonically poor area of Mexico, and the Mexican government over the years has made progress in stopping this.

    Anyway, poaching is not occuring and will not occur. It is a myth.

    # Elizabeth Stacey Says:
    January 26th, 2007 at 9:27 pm

    Request to never teh bride:

    I have also seen the “release” and witnessed young children crying because their butterflies were dead. Please- please- either delete your apparent endorsement or publish a new update that makes it clear how traumatic this choice can be.

    The cruelty that is inflicted on these animals- being caged up until they wither away from lack of water, food, and air, all for the purpose of making some bride look fancy, is unconscionable.

    I love your column, and I truly believe that you would never have posted this if you knew how the butterflies serve to equate a wedding with pain-inflicted on innocent insects- and death. What bride- what thinking, feeling bride- would want this?

    Sincerely,

    Elizabeth

    I am sorry to read of this as I understand no one expects “dead” butterflies. However, I would have to know some details to comment on this particular situation. I will address the use of the word “cruelty.” We are not cruel to butterflies. They are not like us. They have no higher emotions like sadness or happiness as human beings do nor do they in fact have a capacity for pain as we do. Under the hood, they are insects. The purpose of confinement in envelopes is to protect their wings until release. That’s all. I personally, for our clients, recommend releasing the same day as arrival if possible rather than 24 hours after arrival, i.e. shipped to arrive the day before. However, Monarch and Painted Lady butterflies normally maintain very well for 48 hours without food and water. They are feed and watered before shipping and they actually, as butterflies all do, survive mostly on their body fat acquired as caterpillars. The nectar they sip is for flight energy and the water for hydration. Monarch butterflies live in the overwintering colonies for months without feeding.

    If you have any questions, this is my contact info:

    Thank you,

    Dale

    Dale McClung
    Florida Monarch Butterfly Farm
    P.O. Box 48966
    St. Petersburg, FL 33743-8966
    Phone: (727) 381-1932
    Email:
    Website: or