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Raising Butterflies For Fun And Profit
Raising butterflies can be profitable - it’s a $70 million business annually in the U.S. But people who raise butterflies typically are motivated by more than money. They are passionate about the environment and restoring butterfly habitat. Euchee Butterfly Farm in Leonard, Okla., is a good example.
  It started as a fun diversion when David Bohlken raised butterflies while working on his family’s Minnesota Christmas tree farm. In the mid 90’s he learned he could sell butterflies and started taking out ads in bird and nature publications. By 1996, he and his wife, Jane Breckinridge, had a tent with butterflies at the Minnesota State Fair. In 2018, more than 71,000 people went through their Butterfly House.
  In 2004, the couple moved to 160 acres in Oklahoma that has been in Breckinridge’s family for five generations. It also happens to be along the butterfly migration route and in the heart of tribal lands. The couple named their farm Euchee, after Breckinridge’s great-great grandfather who was the last Euchee chief.
  “We raise butterflies for sale and help others do it,” Breckinridge says. Part of that is education about food sources and bringing back traditional plants with the help of the seven tribes involved with the Tribal Environmental Action for Monarchs. With much hard work they have established a seedbank of 154 native wildflowers that provide necessary nectar and food. Many of the varieties had been preserved on prairie remnant on Euchee Butterfly Farm land. The farm also has demonstration plots of nectar rich flowers such as zinnias and Mexican sunflowers.
  Different butterfly caterpillars eat different foods, Breckinridge says. Monarchs feed on nectariferous plants on the journey to Mexico, and when heading north they lay eggs on milkweed. Euchee Butterfly Farm raises several species of butterflies that eat other plants. Buckeye eat narrow leaf plantain that is grown in trays. Painted Ladies eat thistle. Swallowtails eat fennel or dill.
  “Some things we grow out in flats that go in the cages with the caterpillar,” Breckinridge explains, noting that other caterpillars are placed in mesh sleeves on trees to feed on leaves.
  The farm has buildings and greenhouses set up with mesh containers for developing caterpillars. Like any farm with “livestock”, the facilities are kept clean and healthy, and caterpillars are fed nutritious food. Work is underway to add three more buildings to increase capacity and provide space for education. Part of that is working with farmers and landowners to raise awareness of restoring habitat.
  Euchee Butterfly Farm sells to clients with butterfly houses, botanical gardens and wildlife conservation and for flight houses and release events, such as cancer center fundraisers. The common Painted Lady butterflies are usually released. Even if they don’t increase the local population, releases are valuable, Breckinridge says.
  “They raise awareness. We let people know butterflies are in trouble. It’s a net win, because people will reduce pesticide use and let milkweed grow,” she says. “It comes down to rural people and the choices they make.”
  Raising butterflies is a lot of work, but is rewarding, Breckinridge says.
  “We are so grateful doing this work,” she says. “It brings joy and meaning to people.”
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Jane Breckinridge and David Bohlken, The Learning Center at the Euchee Butterfly Farm, P.O. Box 21, Leonard, Okla. 74043 (ph 918 366-0964; www.butterflylearningcenter.org; jbreckinridge@hotmail.com).

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2019 - Volume #43, Issue #1