FAQ – Breeding Centres

For Butterfly Breeding Centres

1. How difficult is it to work with butterflies?

Working with butterflies is not difficult at all. They should be left alone to propagate on their own. It is the environment created in the enclosure (lepidome) that depicts the success rate of your breeding butterflies.

2. What is a Butterfly Breeding Centre?

A Butterfly Breeding Centre is a place where butterflies are bred in an enclosure of no more than 12m (L) x 6m (W) x 2.4m (H). This enclosure is called a Lepidome. It has specific design and material specifications that are essential to the welfare of the butterflies being bred.

3. How much does it cost to set up?

To set up a lepidome of the above mentioned size, will cost approximately 15 thousand rand.

4. How many butterflies could I successfully breed in this enclosure?

The yield of butterflies bred in the size of the lepidome mentioned in the answer to question 3, varies from season to season. Summer would yield as many as 2 000 butterflies. In autumn the yield would increase by approximately 15%. In winter this usually drops to almost half of the yield produced in autumn and in spring the yield of butterflies would increase to about 25% of the yield produced in summer.

5. How big a piece of land do I require to own a Butterfly breeding Centre?

You would need at least 100 square meters for the size lepidome described in the answer to question 3 mentioned above.

6. How do I make money from this enterprise?

Butterflies are required for many occasions and functions. Here are some examples: for release at weddings as confetti, funerals, parties and other similar functions, school projects and filming of butterflies by independent parties of the film industry. There are also classroom tours and individual local tours to be had. To see what butterflies are sold for see the website www.butterflyrelease.co.za

7. Where will I get my initial stock of butterflies to begin with?

Your initial butterfly breeding stock will come from the South African Butterfly Breeding Association (SABBA) in Ramsgate of Kwa-Zulu Natal. The size of the lepidome mentioned in the answer to question 3, will allow you to be supplied with 8 gravid (pregnant) females.

8. How many eggs will I receive from each gravid female?

This is difficult to say for sure. But on an average, each gravid female should produce no less that 55 eggs each. If you multiply this by 8 females, that would give you 440 eggs. However, gravid females usually lay up to 120 eggs each. That would give you around 960 eggs.

9. How many of these eggs will eventually become butterflies that I can sell?

This is a difficult question, simply because it is not I that will be breeding your butterflies. However, should you have the proper training and information and you do everything correctly as you will be taught, then a loss of 10% of your eggs is understandable and you should bring through a healthy 400 butterflies (if each female provided gives you 55 eggs) but this could be as much as 860 healthy butterflies.

10. What training will I require?

Well, you will be provided with the course material to study and will write an exam to obtain a ‘Certificate of Competence’. The course is provided by the South African Butterfly Breeding Association (SABBA), as a correspondence course with the exam being online as stipulated by your correspondence instructor. Once this exam has been completed and you have your lepidome constructed, you will then be supplied with the butterfly breeding stock. See the link SABBA courses.

11. Are there any other hidden costs?

Yes there is. Before one can start setting up you will need a site inspection to make sure that your lepidome is in the right place. There will also be sampling of butterflies and other insects as well as the identification of local host plants. This will enable SABBA to provide you with the correct butterfly species for your area to breed. The cost of such and inspection is 12 thousand rand and it is a once off.

12. Am I to understand, that the entire cost of becoming a breeder and having a Butterfly Breeding Centre, would be in the region of 24 thousand rand?

Unfortunately not. You would still have to approach the South African Butterfly Breeding Association (SABBA) for your course material which will cost anything between 4 thousand to 9 thousand rand, depending on the course modules selected by yourself. This excludes the sourcing of your required host plants. This could cost you another +- 4 thousand rand, again depending on where you source them from. No, I would safely indicate that one should look at an investment of perhaps 40 thousand rand to cover all your bases.

13. How long would it take me to make back my investment?

From the point that you are set up and breeding from the stock provided by the South African Butterfly Breeding Association (SABBA), it would be relatively easy to estimate a suitable time frame. Assuming that you have from the 8 gravid females supplied by SABBA acquired 440 eggs and that you lose the 10% on average, giving you a round figure of 400 eggs becoming full grown butterflies, each being sold at 55 rand on the first brood, this should provide you with a reasonable income of 22 thousand rand. There are usually 4 to 8 broods per year, but working on only 4 broods will provide you a reasonable income of 88 thousand rand. Your capital investment has already been returned in the breeding of the second brood.

14. Is this the type of income I can expect from my Butterfly Breeding Centre?

Remember that I am addressing these questions asked on the level of a beginner and therefore it would be unfair of me to provide you with ultimate answers.  However the answer would be no. One particular Butterfly Breeding Centre has a high turnover and have been breeding butterflies for the last 12 years at average an income of 40 thousand rand per month. It would be unfair for you to imagine that you could have these achievements in one year as a beginner.

15. Where will I find people to order butterflies from me?

The South African Butterfly Breeding Association (SABBA) will provide you with your orders for the 1st 12 months by which time you should be well established and on your way to operate by yourself. You may also be advertised as a breeder on several butterfly related websites.

16. How do I go about getting started?

Please contact the South African Butterfly Breeding Association (SABBA) directly by completing the form on our Butterfly Sanctuaries page, under your relevant breeding centre.