Commercial selling of butterflies

Neil Reimer nreimer at
Sun Jul 5 12:31:10 EDT 1998

Peter VerHage wrote:
> I am currently working at the Chicago Field Museum on an outdoor butterfly
> exhibit.  As a guide, I have been asked many times about the environmental
> problems associated with buying and releasing butterflies at weddings, and
> other parties.  Our current position is that only Monarchs and Painted
> Ladies should be bought since all other species would be released into gene
> pools that are not their own, potentially damaging the entire population.
> However as I have done a short survey of the internet I have noticed that
> there are quite a few sites selling many different species of butterflies.
> This raises a few questions for me.  One, what butterflies are legal to
> sell commercially?  If it is more than just the migratory species, what is
> the reasoning behind the laws?  And has there been any effort to change
> these laws in favor of higher restrictions on the selling of butterflies?
> These questions are very important to me since I am potentially doing my
> senior thesis on this subject.  So I would appreciate receiving as much and
> as detailed information as is possible.  THank you in advance for any help
> you could give.
> Sincerely,
> Peter VerHage
The USDA does regulate the interstate movement of plant pests. 
Therefore, I suspect that they require permits for the interstate
movement of butterflies for release, but I don't know for sure.

In Hawaii, it is illegal, by state law, to import any live butterflies
into Hawaii.  We have a couple of companies which rear monarchs for
release at special occasions.  They can do this as long as the monarchs
are caught and reared from populations within the State.  Shipments
between islands also need to be cleared by the Hawaii Department of

Other species of butterflies which are considered to be pest species,
such as citrus swallowtail, cabbage white, and banana skipper, etc., are
not allowed for rearing and release.

Neil Reimer
Hawaii Department of Agriculture

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