Butterfly Releases – When to Order, and What Type?

Jodi Hopper a butterfly farmer has the answers to the most asked questions for brides and grooms planning a Butterfly release as part of their wedding ceremony. Those questions are, When to Order Your Butterflies, and What Kind Should I Order?

If you have decided to release butterflies at your wedding, do not wait too long to look for a farmer to purchase your butterflies. It takes approximately 4 to 5 weeks to raise the butterflies. You want to make sure that you are able to purchase the type and quantity of butterflies that you would like. So it is a good idea to start looking at least 3 months or more in advance and to reserve your butterflies, preferably 4 to 6 weeks in advance. Most farmers ask that ½ be paid to reserve the butterflies and the remainder is due approximately 2 weeks before the event.

When you are looking for butterflies, you will find that there are up to 9 different types that the USDA allows to be shipped across state lines. Check with a butterfly farmer to make sure which butterflies can be shipped into your state. Also, if you happen to order butterflies from a farmer within your state, they may raise different butterflies other than what is listed below. Farmers do not need a permit to ship within their state. The 9 types of butterflies that are allowed to be shipped across most state lines are Monarchs, Black Swallowtails, Giant Swallowtails, Painted Ladies, American Painted Ladies, Mourning Cloaks, Red Admirals, Zebra Longwings, and Gulf Fritillaries.
Monarchs – Monarchs are the most popular butterfly used for releases. They probably are the most recognized butterfly also. You will find that most farmers raise this type. It is a lovely monarch_butterflybutterfly with its vivid orange and black markings. It is more expensive than the Painted Lady, but it is a larger butterfly with a wing span of 3 3/8 to 4 7/8”, and makes for a lovely release. Don’t let the price scare you from ordering these butterflies. You will definitely not regret it.


Painted Ladies – Painted Ladies are probably the second most popular butterfly for releases. Its colors are an orange-brown, with black markings along with some white markings on its painted-ladyupper wings. They are not as expensive as the Monarch. They also are a smaller butterfly, with a wing span of 2 – 2 7/8 inches. They do work well in displays because of their size and they seem to be happy in smaller areas.

Black Swallowtails – Black Swallowtails are a beautiful butterfly. They have a wing span of about 3 ¼” – 4 ¼”. They are mostly black with males having a yellow band near the edge of their wings. Females have a row of yellow spots and a iridescent blue band. black-swallowtailsThey have tails that can be easily broken. Also, if handled too much, their color does come off. These are raised by more butterfly farmers, but still not by a majority of them. You may be able to use these in a mixed release.

American Painted Lady – The American Painted Lady looks very similar to the Painted American Painted LadyLady. It has less white markings on its upper wings. Not as many farmers raise this type though, and you may have a harder time finding it.                

Mourning Cloak – The Mourning Cloak appears to be a black butterfly, but is actually a dark maroon with whitish border and violet-blue row of spots on its lower wings. It has a wing span of about 2 ¼ to 4”. This is a lovely butterfly, but caution needs to be taken when doing releases with this butterfly. They like to play dead when morning-cloaktouched and may not be the most suitable for releases. They may work better for displays. This butterfly is not raised by many butterfly farmers.


Red Admirals – The Red Admiral is a cheerful looking butterfly. It is black with a reddish orange band along the bottom wings and also has a band midway. There Red Admiralare white spots near the apex of the wing. It varies in size, anywhere from 1 ¾ inch to 3 inch wing span. Again, this butterfly is not raised by all farmers.



Zebra Longwings –Zebra Longwings are a medium sized butterfly. They have a 2 – 4 inch wings span. They are mostly black with yellow stripes that run from wing tip to wing tip. The zebra-longwingunderside of the wings are striped the same as the upper side of the wings. The Zebra Longwing tends to hover in flight, slowly and gracefully moving from flower to flower. These are raised and released only in the southern states.

Giant Swallowtails – The Giant Swallowtail is a large butterfly with a wing span of 5 inches or longer. It is brownish black with yellow stripes. Its underside is yellow with brownish black. giant-swallowtailThey have tails like the Black Swallowtail butterfly. These can be easily broken. This does not hurt the butterfly’s ability to fly. Since they rest with their wings open, they look lovely in displays.


Gulf Fritillary – The Gulf Fritillary is a medium size butterfly, with a wing span of 2 ½ to 3 3/4 “wing span. It is an orange butterfly with black specks on its wings. The undersides of all wings are silver and orange. The silver glistens in the sunlight. The Gulf Fritillary flies quickly from gulf-fritillaryflower to flower, taking a long time to stop and drink from each bloom. These are raised by a few farmers, but not many.



Jodi Hopper is the owner of Wish Upon A Butterfly

For further information on Butterfly Releases and Wedding Planners that are certified to assist you with Butterfly Releases in your area.

The Association of Butterflies – www.forbutterflies.org

Special Moments is proud to be certified thru this association also to assist you with Butterfly Releases.

butterfly-association certification

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