Where do SGG’s Butterflies Come From?

recently released butterfly
This monarch butterfly was recently released, alive and healthy, from it’s shipping package.

It’s hard to believe we are in our 4th season of A Garden With Wings Butterfly House. The Vivarium (butterfly free-flight house) has been one of our most successful exhibitions. People love butterflies. What’s not to love? With their colorful wings, butterflies look more like self-propelled flowers than anything else does. Even people who are normally afraid of insects forget they are nothing more than bugs.

Creating and sourcing the plants for a successful exhibit was the easy part. Sourcing the butterflies proved to be a bit more challenging. When doing the research, I was astonished to find how many butterfly farms there out there. Before deciding on which farm would supply us, I had criteria they had to match. After all, butterflies are living beings. Some of the questions I asked were to ensure the butterflies were raised and shipped under ethical conditions. I found not all farms held the standards I wanted. Some farms ship butterflies without securing them individually or in pairs in small envelopes. The butterflies are then crammed inside a box. Sadly, shipped in this manner, most do not survive.

shipment of butterflies in a box
This is how the butterflies arrive. They are shipped overnight to avoid heat stress. They are then released as soon as possible, not more than an hour, after arrival.

I selected a farm that is near Cobb County. The owner was responsive to my questions and truly seemed to care about the health and well-being of the butterflies. I decided to order a combination of adult butterflies and chrysalises.

monarch butterfly chrysalises
Butterfly chrysalises must be packed well and shipped gently. They arrive in the same package with the adult butterflies.

The butterflies’ journey to SGG begins when each one is placed in an envelope just large enough for the body to be comfortable in a normal resting position but snug enough to protect the wings. The chrysalis are shipped inside foam squares with holes to cradle them. Then both adult and chrysalis are placed in a small box that is heavily padded and fits into a second box with insulating material and ice packs. These precautions ensure protection against temperature extremes and package handling. The butterflies are sent using overnight express mail to arrive by 10 a.m. the next morning. We get the call the box has arrived and we stop whatever we are doing to open it immediately. The butterflies arrive ready to spread their wings, find nectar, pollinate and produce new butterflies.

adult butterflies in shipping envelope
Adult butteflies are shipped in envelopes with their wings folded flat.