Weather and releasing butterflies

Is the weather fine to release butterflies? Is it too cold? Too windy? Too rainy? Let’s look at all the things that can affect a butterfly when it is released. 1) Temperature 2) Rain 3) Light

After raising a caterpillar and watching the adult butterfly emerge, we’re excited and ready to release it. Yet we want to release it at the best time for its own safety.

Viceroy butterfly on a child's nose

Viceroy butterfly

Temperature: Ideal release temperatures are above 70 degrees although they can be released down to 60 degrees.

Butterflies are cold-blooded critters. Few can fly in temperatures below 60 degrees. If they must be released in cooler weather, it is best to place the butterfly underneath the end of a a low tree limb, as high as you can reach. This keeps them out of the reach of ground predators such as ants. It protects them from rain and wind.

Although some species of butterflies will live through freezing temperatures, they do not fly when it is cold. If they are wet in freezing temperatures, they will die.

Ice in the garden

Ice in the garden

Rain: If it is raining too much for you to want to stand in it, don’t release butterflies in it.

Rain doesn’t harm butterflies. They live through storms. But they rarely fly in heavy rain. Instead, they land and wait for the rain to stop and for their bodies to dry before they fly again.

If you MUST release in the rain, do the same as for low temperatures. Place them underneath the end of a low tree limb, as high as you can reach.

Gulf Fritillary roosting in the rain

Gulf Fritillary roosting in the rain

Light: Release an hour before sunset if possible.

Although they can be released thirty minutes before sunset, their chance of survival is greater if they are released an hour before sunset. When it is dusk or dark, they sit and wait for sunshine.

If you MUST release in the dark, do the same as for low temperatures. Place them underneath the end of a low tree limb, as high as you can reach.

Zebra Longwing butterflies roosting as the sun sets

Zebra Longwing butterflies roosting as the sun sets

Warning points:

If the temperature, light, and other factors are not conductive for releases, chances are that they will land on the ground where people will step on them. Even if people are careful, they often pick up butterflies to move them to a safer location. Unless people know how to pick handle butterflies, they can mishandle them, causing fatal injuries.

The butterflies you raise and release should be released where there is grass or plants. Concrete and roads are not safe release areas.

Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly dead on a road

Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly dead on a road

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