Choices

If you wish to release butterflies at your wedding or other special event, you have the choice of utilizing butterflies that occur naturally in your state or ordering certain butterflies to be shipped to you from an out-of-state, commercial butterfly farm that is permitted by the USDA. Below is information that will guide you in selecting butterflies that are legal for release where you live.

Interstate Transport of Butterflies for Release

Interstate transport of butterflies is governed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). USDA has ruled that only nine butterfly species may be moved across state lines for release, and then only to certain states. In addition, for some species USDA have further divided release permissions by sub-species; for example, Western Monarchs may not be released east of the Continental Divide(1). In all allowed cases a USDA release permit is required. See the chart below to see which butterflies can be shipped in from out of state and released where you live.

If you have questions or wish to speak with an expert regarding possible butterfly shipment violations, please contact:

Wayne Wehling, PhD
Senior Entomologist
USDA APHIS PPQ
Pest Permitting Branch
Contact details

USDA Policy on “Wild Caught”

Click HERE for advice from Wayne Wehling of USDA.

Releasing Butterflies that Occur Naturally in Your State

To find out which butterflies occur naturally in your state, go to http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/map and click on your state on the map. These butterflies can be purchased from a butterfly farm in your state and released within the same state. USDA permits are not required to ship indigenous butterflies inside the state lines where they occur naturally. However, you should check with your state permitting contact to see if there are any special local requirements.

Finding an IBBA Butterfly Breeder in your Area

Click HERE for a table of IBBA members who breed butterflies commercially for release.

Butterfly Release Chart

The table below shows the nine species and the states in which they may be released. In the table a ‘Y’ indicates that this species / sub-species may be transported into this state for release, assuming that the shipper has the necessary USDA permits. (Puerto Rico: see note above.)

In all other cases, it is ILLEGAL to ship butterflies interstate for release.

Original data in this table is based on the: USDA-APHIS Butterfly Environmental Release Decision Chart (Version 11) April 2012.

Click here to view the Xerces Society policy on butterfly releases.

 

State: A – I K – N O – W

 

A – I Gulf Fritillary Monarch(1) Zebra Longwing(3) Giant Swallowtail Mourning Cloak Eastern Black Swallowtail Red Admiral Painted Lady American Painted Lady A – I
Latin Name: Agraulis vanillae Danaus plexippus Heliconius charitonius Papilio cresphontes Nymphalis antiopa Papilio polyxenes Vanessa atalanta Vanessa cardui Vanessa virginiensis :Latin Name
Sub-species:   West East Tuckeri(3) Vazquezae(3)             :Sub-species
Alabama Y   Y Y   Y   Y Y Y Y Alabama
Alaska             Y   Y Y Y Alaska
Arizona Y N(5)       Y Y   Y Y Y Arizona
Arkansas Y   Y     Y Y   Y Y Y Arkansas
California Y Y         Y   Y Y Y California
Colorado   Y(1) Y(1)       Y Y Y Y Y Colorado
Conneticut     Y       Y Y Y Y Y Conneticut
DC Y   Y       Y   Y Y Y DC
Delaware     Y       Y Y Y Y Y Delaware
Florida(2) Y   Y Y       Y Y Y Y Florida(2)
Georgia Y   Y Y   Y   Y Y Y Y Georgia
(Guam)                       (Guam)
Hawaii                       Hawaii
Idaho   Y         Y   Y Y Y Idaho
Illinois Y   Y     Y Y Y Y Y Y Illinois
Indiana Y   Y     Y Y Y Y Y Y Indiana
Iowa Y   Y     Y Y Y Y Y Y Iowa
K – N Gulf Fritillary Monarch(1) Zebra Longwing(3) Giant Swallowtail Mourning Cloak Eastern Black Swallowtail Red Admiral Painted Lady American Painted Lady K – N
Latin Name: Agraulis vanillae Danaus plexippus Heliconius charitonius Papilio cresphontes Nymphalis antiopa Papilio polyxenes Vanessa atalanta Vanessa cardui Vanessa virginiensis :Latin Name
Sub-species:   West East Tuckeri(3) Vazquezae(3)             :Sub-species
Kansas Y   Y       Y Y Y Y Y Kansas
Kentucky Y   Y     Y Y Y Y Y Y Kentucky
Louisana Y   Y   Y Y   Y Y Y Y Louisana
Maine     Y       Y Y Y Y Y Maine
Maryland Y   Y       Y   Y Y Y Maryland
Massachusetts     Y       Y Y Y Y Y Massachusetts
Michigan     Y       Y Y Y Y Y Michigan
Minnesota     Y       Y Y Y Y Y Minnesota
Mississippi Y   Y   Y Y   Y Y Y Y Mississippi
Missouri Y   Y     Y Y   Y Y Y Missouri
Montana             Y   Y Y   Montana
Nebraska Y   Y       Y Y Y Y Y Nebraska
Nevada   Y(5)         Y   Y Y Y Nevada
New Hampshire     Y       Y Y Y Y Y New Hampshire
New Jersey     Y     Y Y Y Y Y Y New Jersey
New Mexico Y Y(1) Y(1)     Y Y Y Y   Y New Mexico
New York(2)     Y       Y Y Y Y Y New York(2)
North Carolina Y   Y     Y Y Y Y Y Y North Carolina
North Dakota     Y       Y   Y Y Y North Dakota
O – W Gulf Fritillary Monarch(1) Zebra Longwing(3) Giant Swallowtail Mourning Cloak Eastern Black Swallowtail Red Admiral Painted Lady American Painted Lady O – W
Latin Name: Agraulis vanillae Danaus plexippus Heliconius charitonius Papilio cresphontes Nymphalis antiopa Papilio polyxenes Vanessa atalanta Vanessa cardui Vanessa virginiensis :Latin Name
Sub-species:   West East Tuckeri(3) Vazquezae(3)             :Sub-species
Ohio Y   Y     Y Y Y Y Y Y Ohio
Oklahoma Y   Y     Y Y Y Y Y Y Oklahoma
Oregon   Y         Y   Y Y Y Oregon
Pennsylvania N(5)   Y     Y Y Y Y Y Y Pennsylvania
(Puerto Rico(4))                       (Puerto Rico(4))
Rhode Island     Y       Y Y Y Y Y Rhode Island
South Carolina Y   Y Y   Y   Y Y Y Y South Carolina
South Dakota     Y       Y Y Y Y Y South Dakota
Tennessee Y   Y     Y Y Y Y Y Y Tennessee
Texas Y   Y   Y Y   Y Y Y Y Texas
Utah   Y         Y   Y Y Y Utah
Vermont     Y       Y Y Y Y Y Vermont
Virginia Y   Y     Y Y Y Y Y Y Virginia
(Virgin Islands)                       (Virgin Islands)
Washington(2)   Y         Y   Y Y   Washington(2)
West Virginia     Y     Y Y Y Y Y Y West Virginia
Wisconsin     Y       Y Y Y Y Y Wisconsin
Wyoming   Y(1) Y(1)       Y   Y Y Y Wyoming
Sub-species:   West East Tuckeri(3) Vazquezae(3)             :Sub-species
Latin Name: Agraulis vanillae Danaus plexippus Heliconius charitonius Papilio cresphontes Nymphalis antiopa Papilio polyxenes Vanessa atalanta Vanessa cardui Vanessa virginiensis :Latin Name
  Gulf Fritillary Monarch(1) Zebra Longwing(3) Giant Swallowtail Mourning Cloak Eastern Black Swallowtail Red Admiral Painted Lady American Painted Lady  

State: A – I K – N O – W
Note 1.

Monarchs may not be transported across the Continental Divide. The Divide passes through four states: Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. Click HERE for a map showing the approximate course of the Divide through these states.

 

Note 2. State has additional requirements. Make sure all documentation is complete. A contact list for individual state authorities is provided HERE. For New York release policy, refer to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). NYSDEC policy was revised in 2008 – further information can be found in the Permitting Corner.
Note 3.

The two subspecies of the Zebra Longwing are very similar in appearance. Click HERE to find out how to distinguish between them. (Information provided by Dale Clark)

 

Note 4. USDA does not permit continental U.S. farmers to send butterflies to Puerto Rico. However, a Puerto Rican butterfly farmer may raise and release native species within Puerto Rico.
Note 5. Policy Change: Ref. USDA-APHIS Butterfly Environmental Release Decision Chart (Version 11) April 2012

 

The Nine USDA-approved Butterfly Species

Gulf Fritillary (photo © Oscar Gutierrez)
Gulf Fritillary
Monarch (photo © Oscar Gutierrez)
Monarch
Zebra Longwing (photo © Oscar Gutierrez)
Zebra Longwing
Giant Swallowtail (photo © Oscar Gutierrez)
Giant Swallowtail
Mourning Cloak (photo © Oscar Gutierrez)
Mourning Cloak
Red Admiral (photo © Paul Chesterfield)
Red Admiral
Painted Lady (photo © Oscar Gutierrez)
Painted Lady
American Painted Lady (photo © David Liebman)
American Painted Lady
  Eastern Black Swallowtail (photo © Edith Smith)
Eastern Black Swallowtail (male)
Eastern Black Swallowtail (photo © Oscar Gutierrez)
Eastern Black Swallowtail (female)
 
[ Photographs © Oscar Gutierrez, David Liebman, Edith Smith, Paul Chesterfield ]

 

Note: Click HERE for information about sending butterflies to Canada and the United Kingdom.

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