For Farming with Butterflies
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 Butterfly Farming?
Butterfly Farming is similar to any other live stock farming but with a combination of elements, for example tomato farming. Imagine farming cows and tomatoes together. In this case the cows are the butterflies and the tomatoes are the hostplants. This can be done either in the open land or in a type of hothouse effect.
3. How much does it cost to set up?
I will have to answer this question in two steps; these are the open land method or the hot house effect method.
- In the open land method, the size of the host plants that you will plant in a certain area will determine your costs. The younger the trees, the longer one would have to wait for them to be big enough to accommodate the butterflies to breed on. And of course it will also only be determined by the size and the amount of trees one wants to plant. But for the answer, we will estimate say 100 tree seedlings. The cost will be no higher than approximately 2 thousand rand. Irrigation of these trees will be calculated by the water used, either bore hole or from a river/stream as well as the weeding of the area. This is minimal for the exception of any labour you would acquire from time to time, let us say another 2 thousand rand for the year, depending what you would pay a labourer.
- In the hot house effect method one has to include the hothouse itself. This would be in the region of 40 thousand rand to accommodate the host plants mentioned above in paragraph 1. So you are looking at an initial outlay of 44 thousand rand. The structure would measure 52m(L) x 4m(W) x 2.4m(H).
4. How many butterflies could I successfully breed in these two methods?
Again, I will have to answer this question in two steps; the open land method or the hot house effect method.
- In the open land method, nature takes it own course and depending on the availability of gravid butterflies in your area, this would naturally provide you with thousands of butterfly eggs. I cannot say for sure how many butterflies you would be able to breed, as I have no idea just where you are located or what butterflies occur in that area without it being identified.
- In the hot house effect method, 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 10 000 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 Farm?
You would need at least 220 square meters for a sized lepidome described in the answer to question 3.
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. The setting up of a tea garden and small craft shop are also good options to implement. To see what butterflies are sold for see the websitewww.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. For the above mentioned size of the lepidome mentioned in the answer to question 3, you will be supplied with 30 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 graved female should produce no less that 55 eggs each. If you multiply this by 8 females, that would give you 1650 eggs. However, gravid females usually lay up to 120 eggs each. That would give you around 3600 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 1485 butterflies (if each female provided gives you 55 eggs each) but this could be as much as 3240 healthy butterflies.
10. What training will I require?
Well, you will be provided with the course material to study and will write and 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.
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 of 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 Farm, would be in the region of between 16 thousand (in the open land method) and 40 thousand rand (in the hot house effect method)?
I will have to answer this question in two steps; the open land method or the hot house effect method.
- In the open land method, 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. No, I would safely indicate that one should look at an investment of perhaps 25 thousand rand to cover all your bases.
- In the hot house effect method, 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 +- 2 thousand rand for seedlings. Again depending on where you source them from. No, I would safely indicate that one should look at an investment of perhaps 50 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 30 gravid females supplied by SABBA acquired 1650 eggs and that you lose the 10% on average, giving you a round figure of 1485 eggs becoming full grown butterflies, each being sold at 55 rand on the first brood. This should provide you with a reasonable income of 81 thousand rand. There are usually 4 to 8 broods per year, but working on only 4 broods will provide you a reasonable income of 326 thousand rand. You capital investment has already been returned in the breeding of the first 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 twelve years and average an income of 40 thousand rand per month, in a space of only 12m (L) x 6m (W) x 2.4m (H). This is in a lepidome. 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 will 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 on the following email address; firstname.lastname@example.org