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6 Surprising Ways to Make Money with Butterflies

While you may not be familiar with the idea of “butterfly farming,” there are many successful entrepreneurs raising the colorful insects for profit. An article published by CNN Money back in 2001 stated that it was entirely possible to earn $50,000 to $100,000 per year with a butterfly business, and a 2014 CNN Money article said the demand was growing for butterfly production.

The going rate in 2016 for a dozen butterflies was $95 for Monarchs and $80 for Painted Ladies, so you can easily see how something with a relatively low production cost can yield a sizeable profit.

It is fairly easy to raise butterflies if you do your homework on proper habitat construction, nutritional needs, and the best practices for shipping live insects. There are many articles online that can advise you as to how to go about getting started, and there are many hobbyists and producers that may be willing to help you with sourcing equipment and breeding stock.

There are several different ways you can monetize your love of butterflies. Here are six of the best revenue streams for butterfly breeders to consider:

Monarch butterflies are popular for wedding releases.
Monarch butterflies are popular for wedding releases.

1. Event Releases

Supplying butterflies for mass release at weddings has become a huge stream of revenue for many butterfly breeders. Butterflies have become extremely popular with brides in recent years and have been featured in many wedding magazine articles. Butterfly releases may also be coordinated for parties, funerals, graduations, corporate functions, or community events. Promoting your service with exhibits at wedding shows or marketing directly to event planners can help you gain traction in this niche market.

2. Exhibits

Due to the limited lifespan of the butterfly, it is usually necessary for exhibits at zoos and museums to be replenished on a regular basis with mature insects. Some facilities also like to stock butterflies in various stages of development so their visitors can observe the life cycle from start to finish. Establishing a relationship with a local exhibitor of live butterflies can be a great long term source of regular income. It may also be possible to sell preserved specimens to such institutions for permanent display.

3. Tours & Training

Butterfly farmers can also offer tours of their facility as an educational option for school groups, tourists, and aspiring breeders. Some offer training classes, internships, and seminars. Even just walking through the facility and interacting with the butterflies can be a significant draw, as most people are never exposed to such a concentration of butterflies in the wild. Fees may vary based on the formality and length of the tour.

4. School Programs

Many school groups utilize live butterflies in various stages of development for study in the classroom setting. Watching caterpillars go through their life cycle is an extremely popular activity for young students and helps to promote environmental awareness. Universities may also source butterflies for use in research studies.

4. Gift Items

There are many potential gift items that can be developed for sale in the butterfly farm’s gift shop or on a website. Popular items may include butterfly raising kits, jewelry made from preserved butterfly wings, paperweights, preserved specimens, photos, books, apparel, and more. Butterfly jewelry and butterfly raising kits have been extremely popular in recent years.

5. Preserved Specimens

There is some demand for preserved specimens from artists, teachers, and collectors. Due to the short lifespan of a mature butterfly, there is limited opportunity to profit from them before they expire. If a butterfly dies before being sold it can still be utilized as a preserved educational specimen (or as jewelry) as long as it is still in good condition.

6. Breeding Stock

Butterfly farmers may also profit from selling to other breeders or hobbyists who are either establishing their program or restocking after their supply has been depleted. Farmers may sell butterflies in any life cycle stage (from egg to mature butterfly) depending on the needs of their buyer.

Butterflies can be supplied for events, exhibits, or educational purposes.
Butterflies can be supplied for events, exhibits, or educational purposes.

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