In the past five years I have seen more cocoon-festooned butterfly tents in more preschool rooms and elementary school classes than I could have ever imagined. At first I thought my daughter’s preschool teacher was the just the bee’s knees for coming up with such a brainstorm–raising butterflies!–until I realized it was happening in hundreds if not thousands of classrooms across the country. (I still thought she was the bee’s knees, just not for her butterfly brilliance.)
I became curious about this trend: Would new species disturb local ecosystems? Was ecological doom lurking at the hands of gleeful 4-year-olds? I turned to my trusty book of all things butterflies, The Family Butterfly Book (Storey Publishing, 2000) by butterfly buff Rick Makula, and was surprised to discover that with the signing of the Plant Protection Act, there is a whopping $50,000 fine for illegally transporting a butterfly across a state line. Who knew?
I also found that butterfly releasing is a hugely popular wedding trend. Seriously better than balloons, to be sure. If you plan on raising and releasing butterflies, the book offers these important dos and don’ts:
• There are many species of butterflies residing in every state. Enjoy and become acquainted with the ones that live in your area. If they are not in your area now, it’s because what they need to survive is not present.
• Do experience the excitement of raising butterflies.
• Do release your butterflies back into your garden.
• Do release them outside at the proper time of year.
• Do use only healthy and active butterflies.
• Do use butterflies from your home state.
• Do encourage others to nurture and release butterflies.
• Do not import live butterflies from other countries.
• Do not ship live butterflies out of your home state unless you have secured permits from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
• Do not purchase live butterflies from breeders who do not have the proper permits.
• Do not release butterflies into an area where they would not naturally be found.
• Do not release butterflies at a time of year when they would not normally be flying.
• Do not collect butterflies from state or federal parks.