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The Business of “Bugs”: Leading Environmental Action for Sustainability

A Business of “Bugs”: Leading Environmental Action for Sustainability

By Mary Ann Colley, VP of Science & Conservation at Butterfly Pavilion

You know that Butterfly Pavilion is in the business of “bugs”! 

Well, what you might not know is that we are also working hard to create innovative ways to use those “bugs” to create sustainable business and opportunity in areas of need around the world.

This program is called Leading Environmental Action for Sustainability (LEAFS) and we believe that it is a model that will support communities, commerce and help the environment to thrive.

You may be wondering what I am really talking about; it’s simple!  We identify conservation needs globally and then look to see how invertebrates are tied into these systems, and how they may be able to help.  For instance, In Nepal, elephants regularly raid local community farms and agriculture, and in the process humans and elephants have been injured and killed.  Now to find an innovative solution.  Did you know elephants are afraid of bees?  They are! This September Mario Padilla our Entomologist and Beekeeper will travel to Nepal to work on bee fencing—placing hives around the perimeter of an area to ensure that elephants don’t pass through—that alleviates human/elephant conflict.  Through our LEAFS program we are providing support, training and oversite to local Nepalese communities, allowing them to set up bee fences around their properties to keep the elephants away. With beekeeping we can support community members, elephant populations and there is a sweet honey by-product that can be used by the community or can be sold for a profit!

Another area of focus for our LEAFS program is butterflies.  When you visit Butterfly Pavilion you may not think of where all of the butterflies have come from – they come from butterfly farms around the world.  As more butterfly houses open each year we believe there is a growing market for butterfly farms.  Using the LEAFS program model we continue to work to find a conservation partner in areas where habitat is threatened or there is a conservation need.

What does this look like?  Once an area or community is identified we gain outside funding and begin to create a butterfly farm.  Working with locals, we gain buy-in, provide training, and implement the sustainable business of butterfly farming.  Local farmers care for eggs that hatch into caterpillars, then send the butterflies to butterfly houses as soon as they pupate. This sustainable business will assist local people in monetizing local invertebrate species conservation, provide an incentive to conserve threatened habitats, and deliver local economic impact and strengthen global invertebrate supply chains. This is a “no regrets” strategy, truly a win, win, win!

Oh and did you know there is a black market for butterfly collectors? Like anything rare, limited numbers of these animals in the wild makes them valuable.  Many butterflies are collected illegally and then sold to the highest bidder.  I bet you didn’t think the “bug” world was so interesting.  With a LEAFS butterfly farm we may be able to work with local governments to breed these rare butterflies to decrease the impact of illegal collection from the wild.

Did you know that we were up to all of this?  Well we are excited about the LEAFS program and we hope you are too.  For more information or to make a donation of support for our efforts please contact Mary Ann Colley, VP of Science and Conservation.

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