Insect Farmers Reap a Fortune in Butterflies (Nov, 1936)

Insect Farmers Reap a Fortune in Butterflies

Ten thousand dollars for a butterfly! An English collector paid that for one rare tropical fly, the “Charaxes Fournierai,” of which there are but two known specimens— and that is why butterfly farming is a profitable, yet little-known industry. Among the loveliest things in nature are their flashing, fluttering, brightly pigmented wings. They are coveted by private collectors, natural- history museums, schools, zoos and jewelers, who fashion pictures and personal adornments from them. It is to these that the butterfly farmer sells. At Bexley in Kent, England, is a butterfly-breeding farm where care is lavished on the delicate flies from egg to caterpillar, chrysalis and moth. The farm must raise its own flowers, herbs, vegetables, mulberry trees, scented rosemary, bay rose, beech, sycamore, even nettles and dandelions—whatever will please the fastidious palate of the caterpillar. At the proper time this “fodder” is collected in sacks; and the caterpillars that thrive best on that particular diet are put in with the leaves. Twelve thousand swallow-tail butterflies are bred at one time, bringing enough income to pay the “farm hands” good wages. When the caterpillar starts weaving its chrysalis the farmer isolates it in a small “pen” to prevent spread of infectious disease. Another species is given a bit of bark, a matchbox or tin in which to await transformation. Others are left in treetops which are completely swathed in huge bags to protect them from birds. A brilliant blue butterfly from the Dutch East Indies may bring $300, and a gorgeous “morpho” from the Amazon tropics would bring a fortune if it could be raised in captivity. Instead, the only way they can be captured is by nets in Brazilian treetops.

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