USDA's Policy on Wild Caughts:
E-mail from Wayne F. Wehling (USDA)
Thanks for the opportunity to comment on the source of livestock for butterflies that are for environmental release or exhibit.
Keep in mind that whenever a living lifestage of a butterfly is transported over a state-line a USDA permit must cover the movement. Rearing, selling, releasing of endemic butterflies that do not cross a state line at anytime in the production process or initial collection are not regulated by the USDA. That is not to say that State or other Local agencies might not regulate them. A USDA permit would not be required to collect butterflies in your state and release those individuals or rear their offspring in your state. When butterfly livestock crosses a state line for any reason a USDA Plant Pest Permit must cover the movement and possession of that livestock.
Regarding the collection of wild butterflies to be sold for release or exhibit, this is not covered by USDA regulations, but rather is incorporated into the permit conditions as a way to minimize the impact on natural systems. Again, this would only cover specimens shipped interstate. Permits for interstate transport and environmental release of butterflies include the following condition: "No field collected individuals may be shipped - only laboratory produced individuals". Now, does this have any weight? If we can show that someone is violating this permit condition we could revoke the permit. If the person were to continue shipping interstate without a permit we could then impose a fine. To my knowledge, no such fine has been pursued for field collected specimens of butterflies.
Butterfly collecting has become somewhat contentious in recent years. Persons seeking butterfly livestock should be careful to determine where and when butterflies can be taken. Collecting in National Parks or Monuments is prohibited without proper research permits. The same is often true for state parks and other public lands. Collecting in National Forests for commercial purposes is regulated. Collecting butterflies in Everglades National Park would require a research permit from NPS. I'm sure a permit for commercial collecting would be out of the question. Similarly, collecting in Big Cypress Preserve would be restricted. I have heard rumors of someone collecting in the Everglades and selling the live butterflies. If persons interested in butterflies know who this is they should consider turning this person into the appropriate authorities.
In summary, if a butterfly is shipped or received over a state line the shipment must be covered by a PPQ 526 permit and the permit conditions would stipulate that the butterfly specimens can not be field collected.
Please let me know if anything needs clarifying.