Butterflies

Butterflies are beautiful insects that fly. They have huge, colourful wings attached to their bodies consisting of a head, thorax and abdomen, as well as antennae and compound eyes.

Like bees, butterflies are important to the ecosystem because they are pollinators. Why then do people commercially exploit them?

That the global turnover of the butterfly house industry is USD 100 million proves that butterflies are grossly exploited by breeding, exhibiting and trading.

A butterfly house is actually a place that keeps captive butterflies, moths and other insects. It is a place where they are bred.

Butterfly houses are growing in number in tropical countries like India. They could be conservatories or farms. Both are bad. Conservatories, lepidopterariums, sanctuaries, parks, gardens, zoos, all pose risks to biodiversity; what’s more, butterfly farming is unethical.

India has four butterfly centres where they are bred:
Butterfly Park, Bengaluru
Ovalekar Wadi Butterfly Garden, Thane
Butterfly Park, Shimla
Butterfly Conservatory, Ponda

The one is Bengaluru is the largest and is exploring ways of using butterflies as a resource to enhance rural livelihood. Let’s hope it does not translate into butterflies being supplied to be released at events.

Shockingly, butterflies can be ordered online abroad. The spectacular Monarch is largely used by companies for butterfly releases, as well as the Painted Lady. They are delivered frozen in ice packs and need to be stored thus before they are released for an event such as a wedding or funeral. Preserved (read dead) butterflies are used as decorations too. Farming, hibernating, shipping and finally releasing them is cruel. Butterfly releases are no different to bird releases. The captured creatures fly up into the sky and eventually die due to some reason or another. Some people opt for a compassionate way by using faux butterflies for events wherein the guests have to open the folded tissues containing these faux butterflies so that they “flutter” out!


Butterfly collections are no longer passé. But, the cruel trade in butterflies continues. There are businesses that kill and turn butterflies and bugs into items. Colourful and beautiful butterflies are converted into jewellery and knick knacks, some encased or embedded in plastic or resin, some framed behind glass. For example, “one-of-a-kind” pair of earrings and necklaces are made with actual whole butterfly wings sandwiched between two thin pieces of glass with metal shaped around.

Butterfly ornaments, paper weights, pen stands and key chains may look pretty, but not upon knowing that they represents capture, torture and death. Another method is 24kt gold or silver dipped jewellery and display items made by electroforming, a process that uses a matrix/mandrel which could be a real butterfly, insect, flower, leaf or seashell. It is an extremely cruel process because the delicate live creatures’ beauty is frozen with a thin metal ‘skin’ on its entire surface. Insects such as dragonflies, beetles and scorpions aren’t spared either – they too are killed and converted into jewellery and other items.

Page last updated on 23/10/18