Permitting Corner

Comments and explanations about regulations relating to butterfly breeding and butterfly releases.

The IBBA strives to help members stay current with state and federal laws and requirements for shipping butterflies for release to the environment. The IBBA's website provides a contact list of federal and state agencies that may have authority over butterfly permits, shipments and releases. It is the butterfly farmer's responsibility to contact the appropriate agency personnel directly for answers to specific questions. The IBBA will not become involved in providing legal advice or assistance with problem resolution, issues regarding violation of state or federal laws, requirements or guidelines.

Answer from Wayne Wehling on State vs. Federal policy on butterfly releases <NEW!>
Plant Pest Regulation - Regarding Some of the Proposed Changes (Dr. Wehling, USDA)
Find out which butterflies can be released in your state without a USDA permit
Puerto Rico
International Shipping
Link to Identification of Zebra Longwing subspecies page
Link to Butterfly Release Matrix page ("Which butterflies can be released where?")
New York State Annual Butterfly Release Permit And Policy for Releasing Butterflies
USDA Guidelines for Exhibition Displays & Containment
Shipping butterflies interstate for environmental release and understanding / complying with USDA requirements
USDA Butterfly Release Decision Chart version 10
Document Samples: PPQ 526 Section C; Inventory of Containment Facility; Standard Operating Procedures Manual.
Florida Restriction Lifted
USDA Butterfly Release Decision Chart version 9
Online version of the PPQ526 form
URL for PPQ 526 applications updated
Permitting to ship for release - by state
Huge News Coming Soon From USDA !
Re: Permits - for release and/or containment
Permits - for release and/or containment
Change to permitting policy in Arizona
Permits for Florida
New Federal Regulations and Butterfly Releases

IBBA Members can click HERE and follow the Delaware links to read instructions on complying With Delaware conditions to USDA permits

Q&A with Dr. Wayne Wehling, USDA, on State vs. Federal release policy
February 2012

From: Linda Rogers (IBBA Co-Liaison to USDA)
Sent: Friday, February 03, 2012
To: Wehling, Wayne F - APHIS;
Subject: NY permit question

Hi Wayne,
It is my understanding that for Florida, the federal and state policies for butterfly releases do not agree, and "fed trumps state" - so that people may send as per the USDA policies.
My question is, does this also apply to New York, where their policy differs from USDA's?

Wayne's reply:

From: Wehling, Wayne F - APHIS
Sent: Tuesday, February 14, 2012
To: Linda Rogers
Subject: RE: NY permit question

Hi Linda,

The challenge with the Fed trumps State issue comes down to why is the organism being regulated.  The USDA regulates for "plant pest risk" (agricultural considerations) if the State is doing the same then Fed trumps State.  However, if the State is regulating for a different reason, like wildlife conservation, then the State regulation is valid and would be carried out in addition to the Fed consideration. I need to talk with our lawyers on some of these newest considerations. I just have not had the time.

Wayne Wehling, PhD
Senior Entomologist
Pest Permitting Branch

US State Butterfly map

Link to US state map on Butterflies & Moths of North America site. Use this map to find out which butterflies are indigenous to your state. These butterflies can be bought from a local breeder and released within the same state without requiring USDA permits. NB: Local state regulations may still apply - always check with your local permitting authority.

See also our Which Butterflies Can Be Released Where? page.

Puerto Rico

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.

Shipping butterflies interstate for environmental release and understanding / complying with USDA requirements

To: Butterfly Family List
Sent: Monday, September 08, 2003 10:43 AM
Subject: Advisory for Farmers List

The Plant Protection Act (PPA) as we call it, or the Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000, as it's formally known, replaced the Plant Pest Act of 1957. The PPA provides the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) with the continued authority to develop regulations for the interstate transport and environmental release of live butterflies. The PPA also provides APHIS the authority to fine persons found in violation of regulations set forth by APHIS. First, several paragraphs about butterfly releases and APHIS then I will comment on violations.

Butterflies are "Plant Pests" as defined in the Act. This has been argued at length and is understandably difficult but will not be discussed here. Old discussion threads should be available in the archives of one of the butterfly discussion list serves. Also, the answer to -"Why APHIS regulates the interstate movement and environmental release of butterflies?" is available in those archives.

APHIS Plant Pest Permits (PPQ 526) are required for the interstate movement or importation of any living life stage of indigenous or exotic Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths). Another way to say it is: permits are required to possess live exotic Lepidoptera or live Lepidoptera obtained from another state. The remaining discussion will cover only interstate shipment of live U.S. butterflies and not exotic livestock. The nine butterfly species currently on the APHIS list for consideration for release into the environment are handled differently from the usual practice where the recipient is required to have the permit. For the nine species noted below, permits are issued to the supplier who is shipping the butterflies rather than to the recipient or butterfly release customer. The practice of issuing the permit to the shipper rather than the receiver is only used for environmental release permits involving these nine butterflies. Persons who drop ship to a release customer on behalf of someone else who took the order must possess a valid permit for the transport of the butterflies from the drop shippers state to the customers state. Drop shippers cannot rely of the permits of the order taker. Permits are not transferable and are valid only for the person and address identified in block #1 of Section A.

APHIS entomologists in Plant Protection and Quarantine identified 9 butterfly species that can be shipped interstate and released to the environment under certain restrictions (permit conditions). The 9 APHIS selected butterfly species can be released only in states where they are commonly found and there is no evidence for genetic differences among the populations involved. We have developed a chart for determining which butterflies will be allowed for release in each state. We call this chart the "USDA APHIS PPQ Butterfly Environmental Release Decision Chart". This chart/matrix can be used to determine which butterflies can be shipped to which states for release. For most states 6-8 species are permitted for environmental release.

This chart can be found on the "Permitting Corner" of the IBBA website Additional permit information can be found at:

The list of nine species includes:

Agraulis vanillae, Gulf Fritillary
Danaus plexippus, Monarch
Heliconius charitonia, Zebra or Zebra Longwing
Heraclides cresphontes, the Orange Dog or Giant Swallowtail
Nymphalis antiopa, Morning Cloak or Camberwell Beauty (Europe)
Papilio polyxenes, Black Swallowtail
Vanessa atalanta, Red Admiral
Vanessa cardui, Painted Lady
Vanessa virginiensis, American Lady

Each new permit application received by the Permit Unit is reviewed by permit staff and or scientists who take all pertinent factors into account before issuing a permit to ship the listed butterfly species from one State to another. It is also important to note that State Agriculture Officials are also afforded the opportunity to review the permit applications and provide comments. The decision to issue the Federal permit is solely that of APHIS. State level agencies/departments such as fish and wildlife, environment, or conservation agencies may have additional requirements governing butterfly releases.

State officials have an opportunity to identify local concerns or issues that may result in the denial of all or part of a permit application. For some states agencies other than agriculture may require their own separate permits. Federal authority preempts state authority in matters of interstate transport of plant pests. Permits for releasing butterflies to the environment differ from other Plant Pest Permits in that the shipper must poses the permit for the destination state rather than the receiver or person releasing the butterflies. Permit applications are reviewed on a case by case basis and although consistency is very important each permit is a unique event and may stipulate different permit conditions which must be carried out in order to achieve USDA APHIS safeguards.

APHIS takes permit compliance very seriously. Persons determined to be in violation of the 7 CFR 330 regulations or conditions on their permit could have their permits cancelled and/or receive monetary fines. Suspected violations are turned over to APHIS' Investigative and Enforcement Services (IES) to determine if violations have occurred and if civil penalties should be assessed. Permit holders are expected to comply with all conditions provided in Section C of the PPQ 526 permit for the duration of issuance. To increase permittee awareness of these conditions last March (2003) we implemented a new requirement that each permit condition be initialed by the applicant and separate letter agreeing to abide by all of the conditions must be signed and returned to Permit Services before the final permit is issued. Activities such as shipping butterflies interstate without a permit or shipping butterfly species not listed on a permit are a violation of the PPA and are submitted for investigation. Drop shipments must be covered by valid PPQ 526 permits that specify the origin and destination state. IES investigates the violation and determines the amount of the civil penalty (fine). The PPA in Section 424 of 7 USC 7734 provides for fines ranging up to $50,000.00 - $250,000.00 for commercial violations. Several investigations are ongoing at this time.

Wayne Wehling, Ph.D.
Contact details

USDA Butterfly Release Decision Chart (Version 10)
August 2003

(A Decision Matrix for Butterfly Shipping Permits )

Click HERE to view the matrix as a web page, or download a version of the document by right-clicking on one of the icons below.

MS Word
Rich Text Format
Download as a Word document
Download as a RTF document


Florida Restriction Lifted

Date: Thu, 13 Mar 2003
From: Linda Rogers
Subject: Announcement for Florida Restrictions

Hi Butterfly Farmers,

As IBBA liaison with USDA, I am forwarding the below message from Dr. Wayne Wehling, regarding the removal of the Florida restriction for inbound Monarchs. The IBBA website's Permitting Information has Dr. Wehling's most recent release chart that shows which butterflies may be shipped to each state, with permits.

Permit applications are available on the IBBA and the USDA website.

Linda Rogers



Effective March 9, 2003 with the distribution to the IBBA of Version 9 of the "USDA APHIS PPQ Butterfly Environmental Release Decision Chart" the Atlantic Coast restriction on interstate shipment of monarchs, Danaus plexippus, into Florida for environmental release is lifted. Previously, monarchs could only be shipped interstate to Florida for release to the environment from states along the Atlantic seaboard. This change will now allow consideration of Plant Pest Permits for domestic reared monarchs from areas east of the continental divide in the United States to be shipped to Florida for environmental release when the shipper possess a valid USDA APHIS PPQ 526 Plant Pest Permit from the APHIS Permit Unit at: Permit Services Unit 133, 4700 River Rd., Riverdale, MD 20737. Additional Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Department of Plant Industries requirements may apply.

Information on permits can be found at:

Applications can be FAXed to 301-734-8700

Happy Butterflying
Wayne Wehling

The Background:

Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2003
From: Linda Rogers

There was a tele-conference call yesterday evening, attended by Drs.Wehling, Firko and Flanders of the USDA. The IBBA was represented by Stephen Roche, Esq., President Velma Begley, Jon Timko, Dale McClung, Melanie McCarthy, Rick Mikula and Linda Rogers.

The restriction for shipping Monarchs into Florida is being removed by USDA.

Official USDA announcement and documentation are pending and will be issued in mid-March. You cannot ship Monarchs into Florida right now, but do go ahead and apply for your Florida permits. The USDA says to go ahead and apply for permits, but do not ship until after the official announcement is made in mid March.

Linda Rogers

Online version of the PPQ 526 form

Date: Thu, 6 Feb 2003
From: Jack Mikula
Subject: A Solution for Form ppq-526

Rick and I have worked out something that may help with this issue. On this page: you'll find a copy of the form, freshly made today, with all the fields set up as variable fields. With this form, you can type into all the fields and then print the form. If you have the paid version of Acrobat Reader (which almost no one uses), you can also save the form in .pdf format.

To save time with the use of this form, we suggest you use Notepad or some other text program and type out the lines that are always used (such as your name and address). Then, when you want to use this page repetitively, you can simply cut and past from the text program.

Since this was just done this morning, we appreciate any feedback on problems using this form. We tested it with Acrobat Reader 4.0 and 5.0.

Jack Mikula

Date: Thu, 6 Feb 2003
From: Lili Pintea-Reed
Subject: PPQ 526-FAx Number at Aphis

The fax number for AHPHIS to submit permits is:
Fax the permit application to (301) 734-8700


Click HERE for a Word document containing PPQ526 as a backdrop. Not as elegant as the PDF form above, but it is workable if you prefer to stay with Word!

Permit Applications

From: Carol J McPheron
Date: Fri, 12 Jul 2002
Subject: Re: Permit Applications

Yes, I applied for all the states except Alaska, Hawaii, & Puerto Rico. I've received all approved permits back from USDA for all the states except 15. USDA says they are still waiting for the individual states to concur.

The Shortcut for applying for all the states is :

On a separate sheet of paper I put the following information:

Scientific Names of Shipped
Est in Major
Pests to be moved
Classification Life Stages
# of Units
From U.S. Host


Agraulis Vanillae


Adult & pupae


Your State



Host Plant

I listed all the major butterflies I wanted to raise & that are approved for release by USDA and then made several copies of this page. Then I used the list off the IBBA website about what states allow what butterfly for release and crossed off the butterflies they did not allow. Put the state name at the top of each page.

On the permit itself:

1 - Your name, dba Your company name, and your address

3 - Anthropods

4,5,6 - A thru G - "See Attached List Please"

7: No host plants in shipments

8. "Field releases, education, & medical institutions in (fill in state after you have run copies)

9 - Leave Blank (only need if you are exporting)

10 - Immediately following permit approval

11: Many

12: The name of your company

13. check them all

14. Educational lifecycle projects, hospitals, releases at funerals memorial services weddings

15. Sealed, double containerization

16. Release or death

Then you take lots of copies of the permit, fill in the State in the blank, attach the list of species you want permission to ship, sign in blue pen, date, and BINGO, you're done. Send them all to USDA and be patient. I sent mine on 6/11/02 and received my first batch back on 7/6/02 but I still have several outstanding.

I hope this helps.

Celestial Skies Butterflies of Arizona

Huge News Coming Soon From USDA !

From: Wayne F Wehling

The butterfly release/farming industry is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Plant Protection and Quarantine (USDA APHIS PPQ) under the authority provided to the agency in the Plant Protection Act signed by President Clinton in June 2000. The specific regulations are found in Title 7 of the Code of the Federal Regulations part 330 section 200 (7 CFR 330.200). Under these regulations APHIS regulates importation and interstate movement of butterflies. These regulations are currently being revised by the agency. I have been told that the process has advanced to the stage where the proposed regulations will be published in the Federal Register for a public comment period (probably 60 days) sometime in the next week or two. I will notify everyone when this happens and how you can formally respond.

Included in the revision is the proposal to exempt from permitting a select list of Lepidoptera. If these proposed regulations go forward and become the published regulations then these species of Lepidoptera could be moved interstate without permits. It is very important to know that this process will take many months and the revisions could be further altered depending on the public comments received. The current regulations will remain in effect until the revisions have been published. I will comment more about the public comment process when the proposed revisions are published.

The list of Lepidoptera proposed for removal from the current federal permit process includes:

  • Actias luna
  • Antheraea polyphemus
  • Bombyx mori
  • Manduca quinquemaculata
  • Citheronia regalis
  • Eacles imperialis
  • Hyalophora cecropia
  • Hyalophora euryalus
  • Hyles lineata
  • Manduca sexta
  • Vanessa atalanta
  • Vanessa cardui
  • Vanessa virginiensis

Again, remember at the moment these are only proposed changes. This list could change partially or be removed completely.


Wayne Wehling


Re: Permits - for release and/or containment

From: Wayne F Wehling

There are two ways to determine the need for permits when transporting interstate butterfly livestock. But first it is important to note that if any life stage of a living butterfly is transported across a state line a USDA permit is needed.

The second question is whether the transported organism will be released to the environment.

1. If the livestock is shipped for release to the environment at the destination than the shipper needs the permit. The person receiving the organisms does not (i.e. bride). This is why so many of you have a permit for every state where you hope to do business.

2. If the livestock is shipped for containment (i.e. usually displayed in a butterfly house) than the receiver must have the permit to receive the livestock. The sender does not need the permit to ship to a containment facility but must be certain that the receiver has one and that the shipment has a copy of the permit included.

Two important elements remain- The information in boxes 8 and 12 on the PPQ526 permit must match the origin and destinations permissible under the permit. Lastly, follow all permit conditions closely.

Unpermitted interstate transport can result in fines up to $500,000.00 and imprisonment.

If you need more information please check out our web site at:

If all of your questions are not answered please contact me personally by email.


Wayne Wehling
Wed, 4 Oct 2000


Permits - for release and/or containment

From: Melanie McCarthy

Hi all,

I've had a few inquiries in the past two weeks about who needs a permit to ship to another breeder if the second breeder/non breeder is going to contain the livestock. (This assumes that the shipper does not already hold a permit for that species for release in that state.)

It is important that you be sure the receiving breeder does indeed have a permit for containment if that is why you are shipping pupae or other livestock to that breeder. It is best to ask for a copy of the Permit or you can just go to the USDA Website and do a query to see if that person does have this type of permit.

Just being told that the butterflies will be contained is not enough. There are criteria that the USDA uses to establish whether the organism is being 'contained' properly and can involve an inspection of the containment facility.

To find out if the breeder or other person (to receive the butterflies for containment) holds a permit, you can go to:

It is your responsibility, before shipping, to find out if this person has a permit.

(Again, this assumes you are not shipping under your own permit for release of an approved 'release' species for that state.)


Melanie McCarthy
IBBA Board of Directors
Wed, 4 Oct 2000


Change to permitting policy in Arizona

From: Wayne F Wehling

I have been in touch with Scott Soby of the Arizona Department of Agriculture. Arizona has re-examined their policy on release of butterflies to the environment. The Department of Agriculture has accepted my suggestion of considering the following 6 species of butterflies to be released to the environment in Arizona.

The 6 species considered for possible release into the environment in Arizona under permit will be:

  • Agraulis vanillae
  • Heraclides cresphontes
  • Nymphalis antiopa
  • Vanessa atalanta
  • Vanessa cardui
  • Vanessa virginiensis

Please be advised that you will need to apply for a new permit if you have had previous applications denied.

PPQ 526 permit applications can be downloaded at:

or you can call our fax vault and have a copy faxed to you.
fax vault 301 734 3560 then press 1, 2, 2, 0004

Wayne Wehling
Entomologist responsible for butterfly permits and associated policy
Fri, 29 Sep 2000


Permits for Florida

From: Wayne F Wehling

Several questions have come my way regarding permits for butterflies and how they are processed by Florida. I have talked with Penny McCurry, Florida Division of Plant Industry, about these issues and I feel we now have them resolved. The normal protocol for processing a permit application (and the preferred one) is for the applicant to send the application to APHIS in Riverdale, MD, we process it and send our determination onto the state (where the butterflies are destined) for their input. The state can add comments, ask for a denial, or concur with the APHIS determination. After that they return the permit application to APHIS and we forward on our informed response to the applicant and the state.

The Florida Division of Plant Industry is one of two states that wants the opportunity to verify that every butterfly species that is permitted for entry is properly identified. To this end, Florida requests that voucher specimens must be submitted for Identification to the State Entomologists. To cover the burden of this identification they require a $10 fee for each species that is requested on the permit. However, this is not to exceed $50. So, if you request 5 species for Florida you need to send samples of these five species and a check for $50 to the address listed below. If you request 7 species you need to send all 7 species and a check for $50.

Voucher specimens should be sent to:

    Attention Penny McCurry
    Division of Plant Industry
    1911 SW. 34th St.
    Gainesville, FL 32608

Several people have received letters from Florida that indicated that Florida had denied their permit because they had not submitted the specimens for identification along with the appropriate check. First of all, Florida can not deny a federal permit on their own. They can refuse to concur and we don't like to issue permits without the concurrence of the state. I hope that if you are one of these people that had a permit denied you now understand why.

Now, the question is how should all of this be done? When do you do what?

At the same time that you send your permit application to APHIS for sending butterflies to Florida, you should send the specimens and the fees to the address above, along with a copy of the permit application and a cover letter indicating that you have submitted a permit application to APHIS. What if APHIS denies your permit and Florida has cashed your check? I guess you are out the money.

At the present time the following 8 butterfly species are being forwarded to Florida for consideration for release to the environment.

  • Agraulis vanillae
  • Danaus plexippus - must originate from Florida or Atlantic Coast state
  • Heliconius charitonia - must originate from FL, SC, GA, AL
  • Nymphalis antiopa
  • Papilio polyxenes
  • Vanessa atalanta
  • Vanessa cardui
  • Vanessa virginiensis

I hope this helps to clarify the permit process.

Wayne F Wehling
Fri, 21 Jul 2000


New Federal Regulations and Butterfly Releases

From: Wayne F Wehling

This past month president Clinton signed into law the new Federal Plant Protection Act. This new law replaces all of the old laws that provided the USDA APHIS the authority to regulate interstate movement and importation of plant feeding insects. Because butterflies are plantfeeding insects (caterpillars eat plants) they are regulated as "Plant Pests". The new legislation raised quite a stir here at the USDA. The dust is starting to settle and the attorneys have had a chance to interpret and comment on how this new legislation will change APHIS business.

At this point it appear that there are no noteable changes in store for the regulation of interstate shipment of permitted butterflies for release to the environment. The only notable change is that fines for permit violations have been substantially increased.

Wayne F Wehling
Fri, 21 Jul 2000


May 20, 2011

Plant Pest Regulation (7 CFR 330)
Regarding Some of the Proposed Changes
Dr. Wayne Wehling, USDA

Current stage in process:

As I understand it the document went to the Office of General Council but idled for several months before being assigned to a lawyer(s).

The internal process of making revisions based on lawyer comments should start this summer. It still needs to be looked at by USDA lawyers and the President's office. The last I heard was it might be available for public comment by winter.

USDA APHIS Plant Pest Regulations (7 CFR 330) The Plant Pest Regulations cover everything to do with importing, moving insects (and other plant pests, soil, etc.) interstate, or possessing exotic plant pests. This includes butterflies and moths for environmental release and or exhibit.

One proposed change is the regulation of a list of plant pests that would no longer require a permit to move interstate. Our plan is to reference this list in the regulations but keep the actual list on our web site. The regulations would discuss requirements for moving the organisms but these would not require a permit.

The proposed regulations include instructions for requesting the addition or deletion of organisms to/from the list. Changes to the list would be made with public notification via a Federal Register notice. The list would not be in the CFR but only on the USDA website.

This our “permit by regulation” - PBR list. Presently the proposed list has 126 insects.

The PBR list includes 7 lepidoptera of possible interest to educators and celebration suppliers. Howver, some species could be deleted from this list before or after the proposed regulation is published for public review.

Seven Lepidoptera for PBR:

  • Painted lady, Vanessa cardui
  • American lady, Vanessa virginiensis
  • Red admiral, Vanessa atalanta
  • Cabbage white, Pieris rapae
  • Polyphemus silkmoth, Antheraea polyphemus
  • Whitelined sphinx, Hyles lineata
  • Tomato hornworm, Manduca quinquimaculata

Question: How would these proposed changes affect the butterfly farming industry?

Answer: The butterfly farming industry would benefit from not being required to get permits for those species that make the PBR list. I am not aware of any negative affects with one possible exception.

Since we would no longer require a plant pest permit for the lepidoptera that make the PBR list it might be that individual states will increase their regulatory considerations for these species.

Our changes would not alter our regulatory authority for these species but I could imagine that state regulators will feel inclined to respond.

Dr. Wayne Wehling, USDA
May 20, 2011
Contact details

For more information about permits please visit the USDA web site at:

International Butterfly Breeders Association, Inc.

SearchSite MapContact UsAbout UsJoin IBBABuy ButterfliesHome