b-fly releases at events

Linda Rogers llrogers at airmail.net
Wed Sep 22 09:26:24 EDT 1999

At 04:08 AM 9/22/1999 GMT, you wrote:
>Jim;  Please pass on to the initial author that butterflies should not be
>released in any kind of ceremony, no matter where they are from.  They may
>be native to that particular habitat, or part of Wisconsin, or whatever.
>NABA and the Lep Society have been trying very hard to stop the releasing of
>butterflies at ceremonies.  It is a well intended but potentially detrimental
>Mike Smith

>Dear Mr. Venters, I understand you recently wrote a letter or article
>explaining why the release of butterflies in not a threat to indigenous
>species. May I please request a copy? I'm writing a story for the Seattle
>Times about the state dept of Fish and Wildlife trying to prohibit the
>Please e-mail back or call me at 206-464-8983. Thank you, Christine
Hi Christine,
I recently wrote an e-mail giving my reason's
why I thought the release of indigenous MIGRATORY species of butterfly are
not a threat to the local populations of those same species.
Unfortunately I deleted the mail so I'll give you a re-write.

There are a number  of reasons given by those who see this activity as a
threat! I'll take these one at a time!
1) Firstly it is assumed that the released butterflies could spread disease
to the wild population.
In fact disease and Protozoan infection is present in very low amounts in
just about all wild stock. I explain it as being a bit like Meningitis in
humans...widely carried but rarely a problem unless some trigger point
causes it to erupt. The main controls/limiters of disease in wild healthy
butterflies are fresh air, growing foodplant, & sunshine. Once you start
breeding butterflies, conditions change, there is less air circulation and
often cut foodplant is given...all these will give rise to disease and wipe
out the stock before they reach adult butterflies. The only way to stay in
business is to produce disease free stock and breeders screen their
stock with a microscope regularly if they want to stay in business. So you
see the released butterflies are disease free & are probably in more in
danger from the local wild population than the other way round!
2) The second charge against release is that migratory species released far
from their natal point are likely to become confused and not be able to find
their way to their overwintering destinations.
There are two species involved in releases, I'll take each in turn.
2.1. The painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
This butterfly has a world wide distribution, and is probably the worlds
commonest butterfly...it maintains itself in such huge numbers by migrating
North each spring to colonise land for the summer. I have seen them
travelling up the Nile in the Sudan early in the year in such huge numbers
that when they settled on the bankside vegetation they turned the green
trees pink! These where on their way north to populate Europe in the spring.
By the way I live in UK and we see it every year in varying numbers
too....just like USA.There is no reverse migration (So you may call it
emigration rather than migration!) and all of the offspring are killed by
the winter frosts. This butterfly has even been recorded in Iceland! So
regardless of what you release, and even if you had a system of eradication
of this species it would make no difference at all to the following years
population which would wing it's way north regardless.
2.2. The Monarch...well of course this is your premier species, very
common...it is interesting to note how your scientists write books, study
and pontificate about this common species when you have many endangered
species to take care of...is this because they wouldn't sell books? Anyway
they claim that the best policy is a no risk policy as no one knows what
happens to Monarchs that find themselves released away from their natal
point. Well it may surprise you that I do know where some of them go! Every
year, and for hundreds of years before releases where ever considered a few
make it across the Atlantic by themselves and land in Cornwall England! (I
believe 30 recorded in UK last year so how many made it? Obviously a lot
more are un-recorded!)They then continue to fly east and have been found in
all of Southern England. Unfortunately milkweeds (Asclepias species) are not
indigenous to UK and they don't breed, however the ones that arrive further
south have colonised southern Spain and the Canary Islands.Many years ago
from presumably the other direction some made it to New Zealand, and they
too behave like your Monarchs having found suitable roosting areas for
overwintering. They are also found in the far east The whole point about
this is that this is what migratory species do...they wander...they do this
on the off chance they can colonise a new area...It's just part of their
survival routine and this makes them a very successful species indeed!
...butterfly releases draw people's attention to butterflies...they love to
see them and this has got to be good in the long run, and maybe, just maybe
in time more people may start to worry about your own endangered species and
do something about their plight!
Hope this helps you. This is a personal view...and I accept and respect
other people's right's to their alternative views also. My aim is to draw
peoples attention to and promote butterflies.
In UK I don't collect or sell butterflies I am a member of the British rare
breeds (Lepidoptera  section) where a group of enthusiasts keep healthy wild
stock of threatened species and make them available for re-introduction to
suitable new habitats. I also devote my spare time into working out the
life-histories of species from the European mainland butterflies, and even
from the high Arctic in Lapland, which like many of your own species the
life histories are still not fully understood. This work may be valuable in
the future in helping re-introduce threatened species.
Hope this is of interest to you.
Nigel Venters>

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