Letters to the Opposition

This page contains some interesting, helpful and thought-provoking postings about releases, made by people on various mailing lists for lepidopterists and researchers.

Linda Rogers: Jim Kupcho, Newsletter: "THANK YOU JIM!!!"
Conservationist Question asked to a prominent anti-release person:
Can Releasing Lab-Reared Monarchs Really Impact Researcher's Counts of Naturally Occurring Butterflies?

From: Linda Rogers
To: IBBA Mailing List
Cc: Butterfly Family List
Sent: Sunday, October 06, 2002 3:59 PM

Subject: Jim Kupcho, Newsletter: THANK YOU JIM!!!

Hi butterfly farmers,

Jim Kupcho puts out an excellent newsletter: "Monarchs, N.J." and you can access it on line at www.monarchsnj.com. He has a neat Monarch study and gardening group in Woodbridge, N.J. The newsletter he puts out is a good source of information, very interesting, and it talks about his club's building a butterfly garden which now has over 2000 plants. The garden was started in 1999 with a few varieties of nectar and milkweed plants. Photos can be seen on the website. You all be sure and check out his on-line newsletter and very pretty website.

Below is his account of how he changed his mind about butterfly releases, from his first opinion that resulted from his reading the NABA website article, to his current opinion that came after researching the subject with such articles as those written on the IBBA website, and having personal experience with IBBA members at the 2001 convention and from purchasing butterflies for his garden from a member. I certainly appreciate Jim's having the courage to publicly state that he changed his mind after doing his own reading and thinking, and not just going along with the NABA tirade.

The October 2002 newsletter has a mention of the IBBA. Jim states:


"A few years after I got involved with Monarchs, I read a negative article on purchasing butterflies to release at weddings. Without doing any research on the information in the article, I often told people, especially at my programs, that I was opposed to this practice. I stood by this conviction up until two years ago. I came across information referring me to the International Butterfly Breeders Association (IBBA). Going to their website, I came upon a lot of information rebutting the negative article. I then did further research on various websites pertaining to this subject. I also contacted some of the breeders asking questions. I decided to attend their annual convention (2001) in Orlando, Florida. With all this information under my belt, I started re-thinking my past opinions on the issue.

To put the icing on the cake, due to the lack of Monarchs throughout the country, I was forced into purchasing a dozen Monarchs from one of the breeders. I can honestly say, I received them within two days, there were actually 13, all in great shape. I mated the thirteen, the results show up in the numbers I have given away, personally tagged and released. I have reversed my opinions on this practice, and wholeheartedly suggest to anyone reading this article, to go ahead and release at weddings, bar mitzvahs, funerals, and any other occassions you see fit. I opted to do a release at our garden dedication earlier in the month. The only advice I offer, is make sure you purchase them from a reputable breeder. The IBBA has a list on their website. Some of the breeders will even supply you with references to check their reliability. Below is some information from their website, basically provided for those of you who do not have access to a computer. Otherwise, I suggest you check out their website for full text at www.butterflybreeders.org.

I wrote the above article, and was not paid or influenced, by the IBBA or any of its members."

Jim Kupcho


Thank you JIM!!!

Jim's newsletter includes the following red "IBBA response" text extracted from the "IBBA's Response to NABA Statements and Opinions" paper. You can read the full text HERE.

The release of butterflies at special events increases public awareness of the magnificence of this insect. Hopefully, people will become involved in putting a stop to the unbridled destruction of butterfly habitat, the indiscriminate use of insecticides and they will develop a desire to modify their landscape to include larva host plants and nectar plants. Butterflies are the ambassadors of goodwill for the insect world.

Dr. Glassberg cannot cite one documented case of a shipment of commercially raised butterflies carrying and transmitting any disease to the wild population. Nor can he document an example of a new disease-causing organism resulting from the activities of commercial butterfly breeders. There is no scientific data that commercially raised butterflies spread diseases and epidemics to native butterfly populations. To the contrary, commercial butterfly breeders must be meticulous to prevent the spread of diseases from the wild population to their butterfly stock. If this happens, their stock will be completely wiped out and they will have no butterflies to release.

In the last 32 years, Insect Lore has shipped out over 8 million Painted Lady larvae; and Monarch Watch Program has shipped 250,000 Monarch larvae in the last 8 years. No damage to local butterfly populations nor to the environment has been reported to have occurred as a result of this livestock being sold, raised and released.

The science of population genetics proves the fitness of local butterfly populations is not decreased by interbreeding with released individuals. Dr. Bruce Walsh, associate professor, University of Arizona, a renowned population specialist, has posted on the d plex on several occasions that this does not happen. Please refer to the IBBA website's "Expert Answers to Butterfly Concerns" item No. 6 comment to "Do captive raised monarchs that are released somehow weaken the wild population? No!" -- This is a very thorough discussion as to why captive raised butterflies do not weaken the wild population. (www.butterflybreeders.org)

The release of captive raised butterflies does not confuse proper scientific studies of local population structure. Please refer to "Expert Answers to Butterfly Concerns". A population geneticist explains scientifically, why this does not happen.

For any commercial enterprise to survive, they must market a quality product at a competitive price. Commercial butterfly breeders are meticulous in the raising, packaging and shipping of live butterflies so they arrive healthy and vigorous. They're not shipped at inappropriate times of the year. The USDA and the State Departments of Agriculture will not permit butterflies to be shipped and released in areas they do not normally occur. Butterfly farmers adhere to USDA permitting regulations and ship butterflies interstate for release to the environment ONLY where they occur naturally.

Many elementary school students raise and release butterflies as part of their science education program. This is a magnificent introduction into the wonders of nature for the small children and is not looked upon as a toy or playing. The release of butterflies at funerals, weddings and other events is a very worthwhile, spiritual and emotional experience. It is not looked upon as playing with toys.

Conservationist Question asked to a prominent anti-release person:

Can you tell me what your definition of conservationist is? I believe I am a conservationist and I sell butterflies for release. Is it that you are concerned that there are too many butterflies in the world and not enough host plants to feed them. That happened to the gypsy moth here about 20 years ago. A recent posting showed that a University of Minnesota study showed that there has been no adverse affect caused by butterfly releases, with respect to the OE spore. Believe me, I have heard this debate for the last 5 years and I've heard about the confused butterfly, the unknown virus I might be releasing, how I am genetically changing the butterflies and the rest of the opinions some people are spewing to sell books or is it that we are trying to make "slow bucks" by selling the holy grail. One "scientist" predicted that the monarch will be extinct by the year 2000. Yes 2000, even though the prediction has been changed. It is easy to predict catastrophe. What is your mainstream science? Don't give me insults to prove your point, give me hard science. Let me know the research project that showed your point, let me try to refute your study with a contradictory study. Let's do this with facts not emotion. But let me say this, there is no science that has proved that any damage has been done. If there was, the USDA would have closed us down and many of us conversationist would change the focus of our businesses.

I have also heard that butterfly releases are ruining scientific research. Less than .01% (probably a lot less than that) of the butterflies in the wild have been released. This probably means that instead of having an error rate of +/- 3%, it will be +/-3.01% or less. Is this POSSIBLE difference significate enough to put 100 small companies out of business. That sounds like Educational snobbery to me and rediculous.

Let's work together to fight some of the real problems affecting butterflies. Like stopping mass spraying for miquitoes or gypsy moths, aggricultural releases of flies and wasp to parasite the larvae on there plants as well as other larvae that may be in the area and maybe conserve property where there are colonies of rare butterflies. If we work together we can accomplish much more than fighting each other.

Terry Terbush, The Monarchy

Can Releasing Lab-Reared Monarchs Really Impact Researcher's Counts of Naturally Occurring Butterflies?

If 250 lab-reared, untagged monarchs were released and dispersed over a 10, 25 or 50 square mile area in a few days would this "impede a researcher's ability to measure rates of emigration, immigration, survival and mortality" I wondered?

Well since there are 640 acres per 1 square mile this =

  • 6,400 acres in 10 square miles,
  • 16,000 acres in 25 square miles and
  • 32,000 acres in 50 square miles.

The corresponding monarch density figures out to

  • 1 monarch per every 25 acres
  • 1 monarch per every 64 acres and
  • 1 monarch per every 132 acres.

With only 1 monarch per every 25-132 acres, I would guess it would be extremely unlikely that a monarch researcher would ever sight one of the released butterflies a day or two after the release.

The situation would be different if hundreds of researchers were looking for them on a daily basis in the 10-50 square mile area or the release took place at a large flowering milkweed patch or flower garden that the researcher was monitoring.

The Monarch Lab website, however, indicates only about 8 local sites in the whole State of Minnesota are being monitored by Monarch Larval Monitoring Project volunteers - see the map at http://www.monarchlab.umn.edu/MP/mp.html

So based on the numbers and modeling I have a difficult time imagining how occassional releases of a few dozen or even a few hundred UNTAGGED monarchs could "impede a researcher's ability to measure rates of emigration, immigration, survival and mortality"

Critical comments? Challenges? Other models?


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