Wednesday, August 15, 2012
A special guest visited Pacific Science Center recently, prior to this year’s annual Invertebrates in Education and Conservation Conference. While she was in Seattle, Paola Vargas, Export Manager of Costa Rica Entomological Supply (CRES) entertained our staff with an informal lunch-hour discussion on the butterfly pupae exporting business.
First, Paola gave us a little background:
In 1984, Joris Brinckerhoff, a former Peace Corps volunteer, and his wife, Maria Sabido founded CRES (Costa Rica Entomological Supply) just as Costa Rica was looking to diversify its economy. At the same time, Great Britain was beginning to create butterfly exhibits. They were a ready market for this enthusiastic entrepreneur. Today CRES sends pupae to countries all over the world including New Zealand, Germany, France, Mexico, and the United States.
Inspired by E.F. Schumacher’s book and seminal work, “Small is Beautiful,” CRES has created a socially inclusive business model. Paola told us that the CRES network of 153 breeder/farmers are not considered vendors but colleagues. The farmers have to control all stages of butterfly development. “The relationship between the breeders and the exporter is like a family where we take care of each other,” Paola told us.
Butterfly farming, like most natural resource industries, is heavily dependent on the weather. “There needs to be a balance,” said Paola. “Too much rain, no eggs. Too little rain, no foliage.” Farmers must control all aspects of the life cycle. If they allow too many eggs to develop into larvae they risk not having sufficient vegetation.
Unfortunately, the demand for butterfly pupae seasonally runs counter to the supply. Most butterfly exhibits, unlike our Tropical Butterfly House, only set up their gardens in the summer. Those same months, May to September, are Costa Rica’s rainy season! Too much rain and the butterflies cannot lay their eggs.
Exporting is also an exacting job at CRES. Every Monday and Tuesday, 10 employees pack all the pupae into shipment boxes for their clients. Each pupa is individually inspected for overall health and quality. A pupa is rejected if it contains viruses, potential parasitoids, lack of silk, or is too small.
Paola invites everyone to visit her beautiful country and tour the CRES facilities. There you can learn up close the benefits of butterfly breeding and conservation.
Posted by Terry at 1:50 PM