The mounting and sale of butterflies from the Amazon as decoration items or souvenirs for tourists can be a profitable business but unfortunately in most cases the specimens come from illegal extraction from the rainforest endangering native populations of these animals. In 2012, we built a Butterfly House with the idea of studying the life cycle of butterfly species to assess the possibility of in situ captive breeding as an economic option for local families through the legal sale of the off spring in the local markets.
Our main species of interest has been the Owl butterfly, Caligo Oedipus. We capture individuals from the wild and set them inside the butterfly house providing the adequate habitat for their natural behavior to develop. To improve the survival rate, once they start to breed and caterpillars are born, we keep them separately to avoid competition and then care for the chrysalides until their birth into butterflies.
We were able to establish a successful technique for their reproduction and this can be an alternative activity for extra income for a local family but it takes dedication.
We must learn more about the diversity of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) in our area and not just focus on this one species; we also capture others to study their life cycle and captive breeding possibilities as a sustainable option for their conservation.
- Butterfly house maintenance: Work on cleaning, pruning and fixing the large enclosure and adjoining lab.
- Field work: Go on hikes along the trails to capture the owl butterfly and other species using two techniques- hanging traps and manually with nets; identify the species and release them in the butterfly house.
- Prepare and accommodate the food for the butterfly, clean the caterpillars’ enclosures, count the production of new butterflies.
- For this project to be legal the government gives us a permit as a Zoo-breeding center with authorization to commercialize the off-springs in the local markets.
- The life cycle of the butterfly involves a process called metamorphosis in which the caterpillars turn into chrysalides to then transform into butterflies.
- Most species of butterflies have a specific species of plant they eat and lay their eggs on, this is why it can be difficult to captive breed them given that you have to ensure the precise plant in the enclosure for them to thrive.
- The hanging traps consist of the preparation of a sugar rich “bait” which can be rotten bananas, fruits left to ferment in alcohol or sugary water, placed on a hanging dish with a net attached above it.
- There is a small gap between the net and the plate so that the butterflies can reach the food and butterflies become trapped inside the net when they fly out.
- Capturing the butterflies manually with nets is more straightforward and can be more effective especially in open areas.