Outdoor Butterfly Releases may have Potentially Devastating Effects on Native Butterfly Populations

Please be aware of the risks


Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory strongly discourages the release of unregulated, mass produced, and commercially raised butterflies (for example, painted ladies) into the environment. Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory does NOT supply live butterflies for ceremonial outdoor releases like weddings. Anyone contemplating an outdoor release of unregulated and commercially raised butterflies is encouraged to reconsider. Those that defend the practice will claim that there is no scientific research to back the opposition but leading experts agree that the practice is unwise and it is best to err on the side of caution given the potentially deleterious effects that releases may have on native populations. Many individuals have reconsidered their own plans to release commercially raised butterflies into the environment after becoming aware of the risks.

Other organizations that oppose butterfly releases include the North American Butterfly Association, the Xerces Society, the Smithsonian Institute, the Audobon Society, Lepidopterist’s Society, and Nature Serve Canada. Experts in butterfly biology and conservation consider this act a long lasting form of environmental pollution.

We discourage the practice of butterfly releases for the following reasons:

  • Releasing unregulated and commercially raised butterflies into the wild may spread diseases and parasites and may decrease the fitness of the local population by introducing genes that are not optimal for the local environmental conditions

  • Releasing unregulated and commercially raised butterflies into the wild promotes a commercial market for live native butterflies and may encourage exploitation

  • Releasing unregulated and commercially raised butterflies into the wild may alter research studies of butterfly distribution and migration

  • Releasing unregulated and commercially raised butterflies into the environment at ceremonies does not always have the intended effect: it will be offensive to conservation minded guests and will be upsetting to all guests if the butterflies arrive in poor condition or dead

Please click on the following links to read similar position papers and policies regarding butterfly releases: