Butterfly Farming Articles
The Butterfly Boutique  

Helpful Tips:

Avoid Problems with
Butterfly Livestock Purchases, and
Ways to Prevent Business Conflicts


Purchasing Butterfly Livestock For Your Raising Operation

Buying and selling living creatures can be tricky. Shipping butterflies, larvae, pupae and eggs put the livestock under stress. Healthy livestock shipped properly with protection is first priority. Since butterfly livestock can carry disease that can wipe out your own colony and seriously contaminate your facility, great care must be taken to prevent this.

When buying butterfly livestock to bring in and make part of your operation, it’s a good idea to buy in only adult butterflies that can be checked “at the door” before ever integrating the livestock with your own. Eggs, larvae and pupae can carry disease and bacteria that are impossible to detect in those lifestages. So, it’s always best to order in adult butterflies and check them for disease. If you do bring in eggs, larvae or pupae and then experience a problem with disease, it will be impossible to prove that your supplier sold you sick livestock. The seller can claim that their livestock was healthy and that the disease is in your facility or raising operation. So, big tip…. buy adult butterflies that can be checked and returned to the seller, if necessary, with the test results.

It’s very important to have a discussion with your supplier about their policy for returning livestock that is below standards for health, size, color, condition, etc. BEFORE you place your order. Also, always ask your supplier if the livestock was produced at the supplier’s facility or somewhere else. Knowing the origin of the livestock is very important. Make sure the supplier gives you the ages of the livestock you will receive – the date of the batch they came from, when they hatched, what date they pupated, or what date they emerged.

Buy from a supplier you know, or from someone that comes recommended to you. Get references from other butterfly farmers. Be sure and buy your livestock from a verifiable source, and make sure that you know exactly where your order will be coming from (not from another farmer that is filling someone else’s order to you). Always ask what the supplier’s policy is for returns and refunds BEFORE you place the order. And, GET IT IN WRITING, either in an email or on the supplier’s invoice.


Drop-Shipments Provided By Another Supplier

Having another butterfly farmer fill your orders for you can be a good way to augment your own production and orders, when you have orders coming in but not enough livestock of your own to fill them. Your “drop shipper” needs to be checked out to verify honesty of business dealings and quality of their livestock. Be sure to know your supplier well. You have to place a great deal of trust in your drop shipper. The quality of their shipments on your behalf can either strengthen or destroy your reputation. Be sure to get references on your drop shipper to make sure you can depend on this supplier to send out only the best butterflies for you, packaged properly and shipped to arrive at the right time for your customer’s event. There is a good deal of coordinating in such a situation, between you, your drop shipper and you and your client. This can be a good way to add to your income but only if you are working with a drop shipper you can completely trust. Be sure to check your drop shipper’s policy for refunds, lost orders, sick/dead livestock and make sure you get it in writing. Also, it’s extremely important to verify (again, get it in writing) that your drop shipper is the one that will be filling your order for you, and that they won’t be using yet another drop shipper to fill the order. Make SURE you get this in writing. Get everything in writing. If your supplier doesn’t have a written policy for refunds, sick/dead butterflies, failed shipments – and doesn’t want to give it to you, this is a big, red flag.

Until you get to know your supplier or drop shipper and feel completely comfortable doing business with them, keep asking and verifying with each order about the origination of the livestock. A pyramid of two or three levels of drop shippers will collapse if one of them fails. Since you took the original order, it’s likely YOU will take the loss when there are multiple parties involved. There have been many instances of a butterfly farmer having to refund their customer’s money, then not being able to get their money back from the drop shipper(s). Best advice is to always use only the one drop shipper that confirms in writing they are sending your order out and not delegating it to yet another supplier.

Non-Payment of Invoices

The very best way to avoid getting cheated out of payment is to get it up front. Get full payment from your retail customers before their order ships. You can take a non-refundable deposit from your customer when they place their order, and require payment of the balance before the order ships out. When you are drop shipping for another butterfly farmer, do the same. Ask for a deposit when they place the order, or collect full payment before the order ever ships out. This is the easiest way to never be cheated, and to never have to go after people for payments, never have to send out those multiple invoices with the smiley faces and hand-written notes begging them to pay their balance due. I knew one butterfly farmer that would never, ever deliver an order to you or ship one out without payment up front. Never. Then, I shipped out a large order for her and invoiced her for it. Guess what? I got stiffed. That was the very last time I sent out an order without having full payment for it up front.

What You Can Do

If you have a problem with a supplier and can’t work it out with them, you can post a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. People do use the BBB, and until the complaint is resolved, it remains posted on the BBB website for the world to see. You can also find a collection agency if the amount is high enough to be worth paying them a percentage of what they collect for you.

Most of these tips are just common sense – taking care BEFORE you have a problem, is the best way to prevent it! Use due diligence in purchasing your breeding livestock, choosing your suppliers and working with drop shippers will save you many headaches and wallet-aches.

AGAIN. GET IT IN WRITING!!! And GET PAID UP FRONT!! Ask, ask ask…. And be careful!


Linda Rogers, September 22, 2012, for IBBA


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