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WHAT IS BUTTERFLY FARMING?

HOW DOES BUTTERFLY FARMING WORK?

To start, butterfly farmers capture a few female butterflies from the forest and place them in an enclosure with plants where they can fly and lay eggs. Each butterfly species uses a different host plant.

Once the eggs hatch, farmers place the small larvae on host plants that they grow in nurseries. Many butterfly species prefer seedlings for egg laying, so the farmers rely on the forest as a constant source of seeds for their host plant nurseries (pictured to the right).

Butterfly farmers in the Amani Butterfly Project retain some butterfly pupae from each generation so they seldom need to catch more female butterflies from the wild after they have begun a captive population. However, there is still a need to capture male butterflies from the wild to maintain genetic diversity in their small captive populations.

IS BUTTERFLY FARMING SUSTAINABLE?

A single female butterfly can lay between 250 and 500 eggs in her lifetime, so very few female butterflies are required to start captive populations. After starting a population, there is really only need to return to the wild occasionally to catch wild males to insure the captive population has good genetic diversity.

Thus, the reproductive capacity of butterflies insures that the very limited extraction of wild butterflies by the farmers will have no effect on the health of the wild population. The following generation will quickly fill any space left in the previous generation.

The primary cause of butterfly extinction is habitat destruction, and by providing an economic incentive to conserve butterfly habitat, the Amani Butterfly project is helping to conserve butterflies along with all the other amazing animal species found in the East Usambara Mountains.

2007 The Amani Butterfly Project