A Monarch Butterfly Release for Your Event
When planning the perfect event, you want to make it memorable. What could be more special than releasing a cloud of living butterflies? The display is elegant, absolutely beautiful. You and your guests will always remember it. What a Monarch Butterfly photo opportunity a butterfly release can make!
Monarch Butterflies’ wings are at your disposal. These big, colorful butterflies’ leisurely flight is especially breathtaking, and releasing a batch of farm-reared Monarchs can help prevent Monarch Butterfly extinction if it’s done right. Butterfly farmers like this one have worked with scientists to learn to release butterflies in the way that is best for the species.
Monarch Butterfly symbolism
First, let’s mention that you’re not limited to a single species for a butterfly release. Though Monarchs have special significance for some people, in most cultural traditions Monarch Butterflies’ spiritual meaning is shared with other butterfly species. If you want a cloud of butterflies but are concerned about the harmful effects of releasing too many captive-reared Monarchs at one time, consider a mixed group that includes other species that are native and common in the place where they will be released. People who notice the different sizes, shapes, and colors will probably share your concerns about Monarch Butterfly population counts.
All butterflies fly. That makes them symbols of joy, pleasure, ease, and freedom.
All butterflies are beautiful. That makes them symbols of beauty.
All butterflies go through a complete metamorphosis, with the four life stages of egg, caterpillar, pupa, and finally winged adult.
That makes them symbols of transformation, sometimes resurrection or reincarnation.
All healthy butterflies rise up and fly away when released. Their upward movement is very pretty and symbolizes hope for the future.
In some traditions butterflies symbolize flirtation rather than committed love. In the United States, however, the popular song “Love Is Like a Butterfly" (“a rare and gentle thing"), written and recorded by Dolly Parton, has added “tender, affectionate touch" as a meaning for butterfly releases, especially at weddings.
Some butterflies have been selected as official emblems of places where they are especially popular. Monarch Butterflies’ meanings most definitely include the feelings people have for Michoacán, or specifically for Angangueo; for California, or specifically for Pismo Beach; and for other places. Some people regard Monarchs as “national insects" for the United States. (A bill to make their title official failed in Congress in 2015, while legislation to protect Monarch Butterfly habitat was enacted.)
Though Monarchs are loved wherever they go, some places have chosen other butterflies as their emblems. Virginia, for example, designates the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (which is sometimes confusedly described as a “yellow monarch butterfly") as its state insect. Though their descriptions can sound similar, Monarchs and Swallowtails are not closely related. Arkansas’ state butterfly is the Diana Fritillary, in which pairs of orange males and blue females may suggest the idea of a “blue monarch butterfly." Monarchs and Fritillaries are not closely related either.Perhaps seeing them together can help people recognize the differences between Monarchs and the other butterflies that look like Monarchs. Then they can understand the meaning of observations such as, “Eastern Tiger Swallowtails are fantastic composters; Monarch Butterflies are important pollinators."
If you want to release butterflies you or your students have reared, you will probably have chosen a species that is common in your area, popular with local people (not a nuisance), and easy to rear in natural conditions, preferably in cages set up around their natural food plants. Vanessa cardui (Painted Ladies, Cosmopolitans) are easy to rear in most of North America; their lighter orange and brown colors harmonize with Monarch Butterflies’ colors, and in some places they pollinate milkweed while Monarchs are further north. They are another unrelated kind of butterflies that people sometimes confuse with Monarchs. For those who rear them, these other butterflies will also symbolize teamwork, love, and loyalty. A butterfly farm that specializes in Monarchs and Painted Ladies in the Pacific Northwest is ButterflyReleaseBiz.
Events where people release butterflies
Butterfly releases have been part of many kinds of events. At weddings, butterfly releases can symbolize love, hope, and beauty. Some people release one butterfly for each vow they make.
At memorial services, butterfly releases can symbolize hope for the afterlife.
At birthday parties, especially milestone birthdays (15 for the quinceañeras party, “Sweet 16" in the United States, 18, 21, and 25), butterfly releases symbolize transformation from child to young adult.
At grand openings, or celebrations of milestone events like anniversaries, butterfly releases symbolize joy and hope that the business or career will “fly."
Since releasing masses of butterflies all at once is expensive and may upset the local ecological balance, another option is releasing one butterfly, a pair, or some small symbolic number.
Conditions for butterfly releases
A Monarch Butterfly release will be a spectacular event if conditions are right. To know whether you can count on conditions to be right, you must consider the butterflies’ point of view.
Monarch Butterflies like space. They don’t mind being close to butterflies of other species, as long as they all have air and room to move. They don’t quarrel with other Monarchs but their instincts do motivate them to disperse themselves as far from one another, as fast, as possible, as each female Monarch Butterfly tries to find several hundred milkweed plants on which no other female Monarch has laid eggs. It would be cruel to release a great number of Monarchs at one time. Ecologists recommend no more than a hundred. Responsible butterfly farms may ship only one or two dozen, since farm-reared butterflies may breed weak genes into the local pool.
Monarchs, like nearly all butterflies, fly in sunshine. They will be sleepy and unwilling to fly at night, chilled and unable to fly in cold or damp weather. (A few less spectacular-looking butterflies prefer shade, are often active at night, and may be willing to cooperate at an evening event. In the Eastern States, these night-flying butterflies are little composters with dull brown wings.) Temperatures should be at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Some butterflies will fly in damp weather, even during light rain,but at least partial sunshine will give the best visual effect.
Butterflies that are confined for a planned release come with instructions, or sometimes with a farmer to handle the release. These instructions must be followed to ensure that you will be releasing healthy butterflies.
Butterfly releases may be banned in some areas due to concerns about unbalancing the local environment or about the butterflies’ chance of survival. If Bacillus thuringiensis, baculovirus, or other some other infectious disease has been deliberately introduced in hopes of wiping out an invasive species, bringing in butterflies may not be a good idea. Always obey local laws about butterfly releases.
As an alternative to releasing live Monarch Butterflies you might want to consider gifts or decorations with lifelike Monarch Butterfly images. The Nature Gift Company Store sells a selection of these. You can buy Monarch Butterfly costume jewelry including pins and earrings, Monarch Butterfly shirts (or dresses), and other items, or have your own Monarch Butterfly pictures printed on fabrics, gift wrapping, wallpaper, dishes, office supplies, or even sports equipment at stores or web sites like Zazzle. Monarchs are big enough, and have a bold and simple enough pattern, that temporary Monarch Butterfly tattoos can look lifelike too.
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