Did you know, March 14 is Worlds Butterfly Day! If you did congratulations to you. For those who read it, now you know. The day is celebrated to create awareness about butterflies and their importance in the ecosystem. Important lessons learned included the importance of butterflies. Their role in the ecosystem, good pollinators to natural pest controllers.
Butterfly farming is a local initiative called(Kipepeo Project) that began in 1993 to preserve the Arabuko -Sokoke forest in coastal Kenya. The program has changed people’s livelihoods in a major way. Once depended on commercial logging of trees. Now the same people surrounding the natural forest have become butterfly ambassadors.
Are you are butterfly lover? Here are simple steps to help you begin your venture.
Want to become a successful butterfly farmer? Then there is a need to get basic training on rearing and capturing butterflies. This training is conducted by extension officers.
To begin your rearing venture, you need to catch butterflies in the forest. Nets smeared with mango pulp are placed in the forest to capture butterflies.
Once you have them trapped transport the butterflies to your place of breeding. Butterflies are kept in wooden boxes covered with wire mesh. the wire mesh prevents them from escaping.
Inside the wooden structure construct wooden strips that the butterflies will lay their eggs. These strips act as nests for the butterflies when they lay eggs.
The life cycle of butterflies begins from an egg that morphs into a larva (caterpillar) then a pupa. The pupa stage takes 3 – 4 weeks before morphing into a full butterfly.
The pupae stage is the final morphing stage before it becomes a butterfly.
Farmers rearing butterflies for pleasure allow the metamorphosis to take its full course. After which the new butterfly is let out into the ecosystem.
Farmers engaged in commercial butterfly farming do not allow the pupae to progress beyond this stage. It is at this stage that they collect the pupae and take them to butterfly centers for sale. Quality is key in every farming venture, so the same is expected in butterfly farming.
At the larvae stage (caterpillar) feed them with different plant species to fast track growth into the pupae stage. This stage of metamorphosis takes 3 weeks for the caterpillar to morph into a pupa.
A butterfly has a lifespan of one month and within that period an individual butterfly lays up to 1,000 eggs. This is a huge number for a farmer to have from one butterfly let alone 20 or 40 butterflies at one time. The number of eggs reared to the pupae stage determines the farmers’ financial gains.
At the butterfly centers, the pupae are graded and sorted according to species and quality. This is the final stage before they are processed for the international markets.
Farming butterflies for its economic advantage is not only a viable venture but lucrative too. In the coastal region of Kenya, more than 700 households enjoy this venture.
Farmers engaged in butterfly farming around the coastal region of Kenya sell their pupae to butterfly centers within the region. These centers are the Arabuko – Sokoke Center and Mida Butterfly Farm Watamu. Farmers can make monthly earnings of up to $400 making it a lucrative economic option.
The Arabuko – Sokoke Forest
The Arabuko Sokoke Forest is a natural reserved forest situated in the coastal region of Kenya. Once a prime commercial logging area is now a reserved forest. Conservation practices have made the forest an epitome for butterfly breeding.
Through this local initiative, the forest has become a source of livelihood and a success story about the conservation of natural forests. The forest is home to more than 300 species of butterflies and 4 endemic species.