You may have heard of bee farming, because bees produce delicious, sweet and even medicinal honey used in a wide range of products, but what reason would people have for farming butterflies?
As it turns out, it is a rather niche endeavor suitable to engage in highly developed societies only, but it can still provide for quite a lucrative income if you are willing to put in the necessary work and learning.
Why Would People Buy Butterflies?
Obviously, something can be profitable only if one basic condition is met – people are willing to part with their money for the convenience of acquiring something, but without getting their ‘hands dirty’ themselves. In that transactional process, a balance of profit is established – how much does it cost to offer something that people want? Would the end-price be worth the cost of creating it?
This is the question that underlies every business since the dawn of human civilization. Every other consideration stems from it, but the foremost is this one – is there really a need for something to create it in the first place?
Make no mistake, butterfly farming is only for post-industrialized, first world nations, with highly developed tertiary economies.
In such economies, service sector is the king. For example, consider the wedding industry. The estimated average expenditure on weddings in USA is $26,989, generating $60 billion per year. Consider all the niche services that go into that wedding, and then you realize that butterflies can and are a part of that service.
Butterflies are the nature’s canvas, as their disproportionately large wings dazzle with colorful and reflective patterns. At weddings, releasing butterflies gives it that extra unique pinch of elegance and status. Along with birthdays, funerals, anniversaries, social events, and all kinds of celebrations and social events.
Furthermore, butterflies are regularly sold to nature centers, schools, exhibits, and offered as fund raiser components at community events like cancer rallies and other projects that need to draw attention of the public.
How to Start Growing Butterflies
Unless you have a bonafide expert in butterfly farming at your disposal 24/7, you should start small, so the inevitable mistakes along the way only represent small bumps in your butterfly farming business.
Obviously, along the way, you have to become an amateur biologist on the butterfly species first in order to understand:
- How to grow butterflies – from eggs to adults.
- Butterfly life cycles and nutritional requirements.
- Optimal butterfly environment and most suitable host plants.
All of which will give you the big picture you need to make butterfly farming profitable. In other words, time/cost investment vs the end-price of your butterflies. A good place to start would be to read this short, free manual.
Once you have familiarized yourself with butterflies for free, before doing anything else or buying anything, you need to always keep in mind that planning and budgeting is the best way to avoid unnecessary costs!
In short, track and organize everything beforehand. This can be done exceedingly easy by using Microsoft’s Excel or other spreadsheet software.
Don’t be intimidated by it, as it is very simple and powerful to use once you get the core concepts, and once you get the hang of it you will be asking yourself how could you have gone without it this entire time. Spreadsheet is a tremendous planner and cost illuminator!
A dedicated, climate-controlled space to raise caterpillars and the host plants. This will have to be a room for caterpillars only, not adult butterflies. Additionally, it will have to be frequently disinfected so the flooring should be planned accordingly – no carpets or flimsy wood panels that take in humidity and spread mold. Climate control will be crucial for controlling temperature and humidity levels.
You don’t only have to become an amateur biologist/entomologist, at least as far as butterflies go, but also an amateur botanist as well. Caterpillars will feed from the host plants, so this will be a critical part in raising them. You cannot count on artificial diet to raise caterpillar as only a single species of butterflies would thrive on such diet – the Painted Ladies.
It would be wise to keep the host plants in the same, caterpillar-dedicated room so that they are not contaminated by wild butterflies and other insects. Keep in mind that caterpillars will need a lot of food, so the availability of clean, parasite-free host plants will determine the successful output of your entire butterfly operation.
Furthermore, caterpillars are very sensitive to chemicals, so you will have to find pesticides that are specific for this purpose, and its use will have to be light. And finally, almost every species of butterfly favors a different plant.
Proper supplies, after you have determined which butterfly species you will grow, and which host plant will that particular species need.
From an egg to an adult butterfly you will need:
- Caterpillar raising containers – these should have proper ventilation and be large enough so that caterpillars don’t come into contact with each other while feeding.
- Breeding cages.
- Containment cages for adult butterflies until you are able to sell them.
- Shelves for all the cages and plants.
- Disinfectants and cleaning supplies – caterpillars produce a lot of droppings so their cages will have to be cleaned every day. You don’t want mold and bacteria to take root! Regular replacement of the bottom paper should be enough while not taking much time.
- Miscellaneous – insulated shipping boxes, clip on lights for in-between shelves, and other necessary accoutrements based on your space arrangement.
Marketing is the key to every business. You may have mastered the knowledge of butterfly farming and the practical application of that knowledge in its most cost-effective form, but all of that will count for nothing if you are not able to sell the products of all that hard work.
Consider the first section on why would people buy butterflies and act accordingly:
- Post fliers in your area.
- Contact institutions and organizations that have an ongoing need for butterflies, for educational or other purposes.
- But most importantly, have your own sleek website. People will take you far more seriously if you have one.
Fortunately, with WordPress CMS (Content Management System) it is almost effortless to set one up for free and manage it without having to know any web coding. Nowadays, it is very intuitive to just select and tweak a theme for a website, from hundreds on offer.
Your only cost here would be the web hosting service and the domain name. Once you have done that, you can have your web presence up and running in a couple of hours, which you can then use on fliers and in contact emails.
Your own website will also be a great way to create emailing lists and other means of proliferating your service, which you will glean in due time.