North American Butterfly Association

Northern Checkerspot

Readers' Views on Butterfly Releases

A butterfly release was part of the celebration at a wedding I and my family attended. So many of the insects were damaged and fell to the ground upon release that my daughter cried. I'd never heard of this practice before and it was awful. Imagine holding a vibrating, flattened envelope on a 90 degree day and opening it to find a moribund, half squashed formerly beautiful creature that flutters to the ground and hobbles the opened envelope soiled by GUTS- people aghast and children crying. Please stop this "business". I can't believe this is allowed to go on.

Leslie Giuliani

In a toy store I bought a Christmas gift of Painted Lady butterflies for my little grandsons.

In the summertime I sent for the larva and followed the directions. The larva changed into chrysalises and hung vertically, except for one that fell down and lay on its side. When the butterflies came out they fluttered around, except for the one that had lain on its side. That one's wings were terribly deformed and it could only walk around.

I didn't know when was the right time to release them, but ants were bothering them, so one day I set the normal ones free. Each flew halfway across the yard and fell into the grass. I doubt that they ever flew again.

I cleared the ants out of the box and put it top a high dresser in a room where I had never seen any ants. But the next morning I found many ants in the box with the deformed butterfly. I didn't think that there was enough sugar in the water I had sprinked on the leaves to attract the ants and think it may have been the butterfly itself that attracted them. I got her away from the ants, but she suddenly spun around very fast and died. I believe it was the ants biting her that caused her death.

If I, an adult and an animal lover, could not be successful with the butterflies, I wonder what terrible things might happen to those that were given to irresponsible children to play with.

I felt very bad about my Painted Ladies and think it is cruel and inhumane for them to be used in this way. All wild things should live as nature intended and I would hope that the exploitation of these butterflies would be discontinued.

Marie Mayfield

I just wanted to let you at that NABA know how much I appreciate the information I found this morning on your website regarding the release of butterflies at weddings. I am planning on getting married in March 2003 and have seen the advertisements in the bridal magazines about releasing butterflies at receptions. While it sounds like a beautiful idea, my first concern was whether or not it was cruel or would in any way harm a butterfly to be stuck in a small box (I was pretty sure I knew what the logical answer was). Before I made any decisions I wanted to do some research to find out.

Thanks to your website I WILL NOT even be considering releasing butterflies. Not only does it seem like it would be unpleasant for the butterflies, I had never even thought of the ecological consequences. Thank you so much for helping me keep my reception free from harming these beautiful creatures!!

Mette Boving

I worked as a server at weddings in the Hamptons. I was so excited to hear that they were going to release butterflies at one, of many to come, of the ceremonies.

To my disgust I found that they were shipped in a cruel flat box. When they were released they were half dead falling on the floor or confused. I stood in horror as they were stepped on by uncaring guests who earlier "oooed and ahhhed" at the supposed beauty to add to the event. I ran to the rescue of the poor little souls and put them on a nearby bush. My heart hurt at the doom of these beautiful creatures.

Linda Hoover

We were at a wedding this weekend where the bride chose to release small butterflies. It was the most appalling sight we have ever witnessed. Half of them had broken wings or were near dead. People were stomping on them in order to put them out of their misery. How anyone could think that this is pretty and romantic is beyond me.

Amy Rita

I thought you'd be interested in an experience I had last week. I was subbing in a local elementary school, teaching a first grade class. When I walked into the classroom I noticed a pile of colorful hats on the worktable, and asked the aide what they were. She showed me...each was a pair of colored butterfly wings stapled to a headband. I murmured the appropriate "How pretty!", and they were. The children had taken great pains to color them as their imaginations dictated. The aide went on tho explain that the hats were for the Butterfly Assembly to be held that afternoon before the students boarded their busses. At this point I had no idea what a "Butterfly Assembly" was, and vague visions of children singing spring songs and hearing someone tell about the beauties of the emerging season flitted through my head. How wrong I was!

At five minutes after two, we were instructed to take our classes to the big gym, with the students in their colorful butterfly hats. These were all first and second graders, and were excited. They seated themselves on the gym floor, and a man named Hans Something...I never caught the full title...came to the microphone and began to tell the children what they were going to do during the Great Butterfly Release. Now, keep in mind that in all of the extremely complete and explicit lesson plans that were left by the teacher for whom I was filling in, there was not one word about butterflies, only the hats. There were no introductory stories, no follow-up activities, no butterflies displayed in the room...nothing to indicate that butterflies, their lives, habits, and ecological importance had ever been mentioned to these students. I'm not saying that such things had never been talked about in this classroom...perhaps they were... but there was nothing to reinforce such learning on the day when the culmination of all this information was occurring. So, as nearly as I could tell, two hundred primary students walked "cold" into an experience that should have had a great deal of preparation.

After the Hans man explained about the little boxes and how they would be passed out, how the students would wait until the count of three, and then release their butterflies so that they could soar off onto the sky, the principal got the students in marching order and we all trooped onto the playground. Even though the calendar said that Spring had been with us for a few days, Winter was still arguing the point, and we took our classes outside into a cold drizzle with gusty winds blowing around the corners of the building.!

It took a few minutes to get the children organized, but at last the countdown began, and on the count of three cold little hands fumbled with the silver cords that bound the boxes. Immediately many white boxes were thrown to the ground as little voices squeaked, "Ohhhh, there's a BUG in my box!" No one had mentioned that these Painted Ladies had so recently emerged from their chrysalides and that the pupal cases, looking like dead grubs, would still be in the boxes. As the boxes hit the concrete, the butterflies fell out and were trampled underfoot, even though many of the students tried to pick them up and toss them into the air. Because of time restraints, the children couldn't wait until the butterflies' wings had expanded so that they could fly, and many students elected to take their boxes home. The little containers were dropped hastily into bookbags and backpacks as the children rushed off to the waiting buses. A few brave butterflies got their wings in working order, took a deep breath and flew off into the gray, wet, cold world.

I saw the last few students off to busses , gathered up my stuff, and headed out to the car. Up to today I had not heard of these promotional butterfly releases and was not at all impressed. When I got to my car, there, stuck to the wet windshield, was the sodden body of one of the brave little fliers from the playground... and suddenly the impact of what had happened that afternoon hit me. Hundreds of some of the most beautiful and delicate creatures in our world had been sacrificed for the momentary interest, if interest it could be called, of a group of unknowing and naturally careless children who had no understanding of what these lovely creatures were, why they were and are important, or how they live and grow. What had been accomplished beyond teaching children that Creation's gifts are only worthy of being thrown away when they have served our transient pleasure, like a fast-food wrapper? Is this really what we want to teach Washington's first and second graders?? I don't think so!!

Please use this as you can to help other teachers know how much this activity DOES NOT teach the values that are important and necessary to our children as scientists, as stewards of the earth, and as human beings.

JoLe Miller, Jr. High Science teacher (Retired)

Shame on them. I have just visited your site and I was shocked to learn that people actually release butterflies at weddings, etc. I have never heard of such a thing here in Brazil, I guess it hasn't occured to anyone yet. It's something really stupid because if you are releasing them, you probably had to imprison them in the past. It is also sad because they die. I wouldn't like to start up my marriage on such a note. I had no idea people could do this kind of thing. Butterflies represent freedom. The really great feeling of being visited by a butterfly cannot be bought. They choose to come. You can't force them. Terrible. Terrible.

Carol Rossi Siqueira