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Butterfly Ranching Catching On Fast
A California production company once contacted David Bohlken, requesting some of his "livestock" the next day for a TV commercial it was filming. While Bohlken says it was hectic, he was able to meet the company's request in just 14 hours.
Bohlken, of St. Paul, Minn., is one of a growing number of butterfly ranchers in the U.S., and business has never been better, he says.
"Demand for butterflies to release at weddings is simply exploding," he says. "A lot of attention is also being paid to butter-flies for pollinating fruit trees, because of a decimation in the wild honey bee population due to a widespread mite infestation."
However, Bohlken's biggest regular customers are zoos, butterfly gardens and educational programs all over the U.S. Last year, he sold 45,000 butterflies in minimum orders of 1,000 "head" at a cost of $3,000 per order. This year, he expects sales to reach to over $200,000.
The butterflies he starts as eggs - laid by female caterpillars in aquariums in early spring - go on in a few days to feed on an open 40-acre milkweed plot near St. Croix Falls, Wis. He now gets most of his breeding stock - 300 to 400 adult Monarch butterflies - in Minnesota but gets others (he raises 19 other varieties besides Monarchs) from Texas and California. Each adult lays about 300 eggs.
Bohlken sells and ships his butterflies as chrysalides, or cocoons, in priority mail packages. His season lasts six months, be-ginning in March when adult butterflies begin migrating north for the summer and ending in late summer.
He helps others get started in butterfly farming and sells breeding stock, too.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Monarchs Forever, 1137 Lincoln Ave., St. Paul, Minn. 55105 (ph 612 228-0180; fax 224 9353).

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1998 - Volume #22, Issue #2