Butterflies from Costa Rica, the world’s largest exporter, spread their wings to Dubai, Europe and the United States

“Although it is the most difficult, it is the most attractive” with its wingspan of up to 15cm, explains Arce on his choice of the Morpho peleides butterfly for breeding afp_tickers

This content was published on December 15, 2021 – 18:58


Donald Arce strikes with his hand a black cloth from the butterfly garden next to his house in Siquirres, Costa Rica. About 300 morpho “laying” butterflies flit around and paint the surroundings a vibrant blue. Soon, her little ones will do the same, traveling around the world.

Arce is 44 years old and has devoted half his life to the production of butterfly chrysalises, becoming one of the largest breeders in the world of the species Morpho peleides, which on the one hand is brown, which allows him to camouflage itself, and iridescent blue on the other.

It produces between 2,000 and 2,500 pupae per week, the majority for export. The figure, according to Secsa and Butterfly Kingdom – two of the country’s five exporting companies – places Arce as one of the world’s leading producers of this species.

Costa Rica is the main exporter of butterflies, a market in which other countries in the region, such as Colombia, Ecuador and El Salvador, also stand out.

In the tropical, humid Caribbean town of Siquirres, her butterflies feed on bananas and a concoction whose ingredients Arce keeps secret.

In his butterfly garden he has “layers”, which he joins to the smaller males in a ratio of 4 to 1. Then he introduces the host plant, about 75 centimeters high and with some branches and leaves .

When it’s filled with eggs, they take it to the lab, where there are huge shelves marked with the exact days and times of the process. “Here, the eggs last 12 days,” says Arce, accompanied by his wife, daughter and son, who help him at work.

“When the larvae hatch, they move towards the field [una finca] until they become a cocoon [durante un mes] and they go back to the lab to pocket,” he explains.

Arce looks for perfect specimens for which he makes sure that each cocoon is symmetrical, if this is not the case, he explains, he gets rid of it because the butterfly would be born disproportionate.

He packs them in small boxes with an inner cotton bed. Depending on the weather, the product has between 12 and 18 days to reach its recipient, before the butterflies hatch.

Each bud is worth $2.10 for export and $1.6 for local consumption.

– To Dubai –

According to Sergio Siles, director of operations of Secsa, there are around 100 producers in Costa Rica.

Butterflies are mainly used in live exhibitions, Siles says, and as their life cycle is only 45 days, demand is strong.

In Costa Rica, celebrations with massive discharges are prohibited, as they alter ecosystems. In other countries, the legislation may be different, and it depends on the exporter, says Siles. He says his company doesn’t sell to those who build or experiment.

He also comments that the main destination of the pupae is the United States. [38% según cifras oficiales], followed by Europe. However, other markets have emerged such as the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, New Zealand and Dubai.

The state’s foreign trade promoter says that from January to October 2021, the sector generated revenue for the country for $2.25 million. Between 60,000 and 70,000 chrysalises of all species are exported monthly.

The Costa Rican butterfly farm Butterfly Kingdom, open to the public, also buys from Arce and in turn exports.

“We have exported to Russia, Austria, Germany, UK, Netherlands and Chile. Customers usually place specific orders but with 40% morpho, which they cannot miss “said one of its owners, Anabelle González.

– Why Morpho? –

Donald entered the business 20 years ago and did it according to the traditional recipe, producing several species.

“When I was three years old, I realized that it was better to specialize in one area,” says Arce, who has just finished primary school and has agricultural work experience.

“We chose the Morpho (peleides) because, if it is the most difficult, it is the most attractive. It also has advantages: it does not stay still, it flies constantly and, as it is large (until ‘6 inches from the wing to fly away), it doesn’t take that much to make a place look crowded,” he explained.

But he had difficulties. Eight years ago, a plague almost tore away what was built.

“For two years, we produced nothing. All the larvae died. We burned butterfly farms, the laboratory, everything. bacterium,” he explained.

But Donald and his family overcame the problem, and his business is flying again, like its butterflies.

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