Butterfly Breeder Intern Program

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Butterfly Breeders and Butterfly Farmers Internship Program

Butterfly farming and breeding involves more than just 'feeding caterpillars'. From mass production of host plants to USDA permits and regulations, from disease to parasitoids, from packing/shipping to delaying butterfly emergence, from farm layout to hand-pairing adult butterflies, all butterfly farming and butterfly breeding topics are covered during Shady Oak's week-long internship program.

About Shady Oak; with 10 years experience, Shady Oak Butterfly Farm has raised hundreds of thousands of butterflies. Mass production of butterlfies is our spring and summer work; producing over 5,000 butterflies some weeks during the busy season. Our primary butterfly is the Monarch butterfly. In our busy season, we normally have from 20 - 24 species in production at all times.

Hundreds of potential and current breeders and farmers have attended Shady Oak's seminars and/or internship programs. Guests range from university entomologists to people who have never raised a butterfly or fed a caterpillar. Guests have attended from 11 countries. Ages range from teenagers to guests in their 60's.

The internship program is adapted to meet your particular circumstances. Via email, we discuss your purpose of interning, your vision, your plans for what you learn, and more. If you are not interested in commercial farming but in providing larvae and instructions for teachers, we focus on the aspects of your vision. If you will not be able to build or use an air-conditioned lab, we will focus on outdoor rearing and methods to avoid parasitoids, predators, and weather disasters (as much as possible). An internship is about meeting your needs and visions with the realities of nature's challenges to your plans where butterflies are concerned.

One-on-One Butterfly Rearing Seminars and Interships are scheduled at your convenience. We are a working farm and although we raise butterflies year round, winter production is minimal. We schedule seminars and internships from the second week in March through the first week in November. We are prepared to have students Monday through Friday, occasionally on weekends. Please contact us with a short selection of dates that you are available to come to the farm and we will discuss availability that will best suit your needs.

Letter of Recommendation

Photographs of the butterfly farm and interns at work are located on Shady Oak's seminar page.

We start our internship with an over view of every aspect of the butterfly breeding operation. This power point presentation allows us to fully demonstrate all aspects of our operation. It also gives us time to evaluate your level of knowledge so we can fully create the hands on based on your needs. This presentation has been designed to give you very graphic views of areas of the operation so you fully understand how and why we do things the way we do. It also gives us the opportunity to discuss situations that we many otherwise may not be possible to simulate effectively during your time here. Each morning we start with a powerpoint discussion of the topic of the day. Detailed close photographs help with illustrations that we can't see with our eyes alone.

Personal Mentoring:
One year of personal mentoring is included with the internship program.

Your Week's Schedule:
The week's schedule is simple and it is adaptable. The internship is about providing education in a manner that fits your needs.

Monday Study;
Lifecycle, breeding stock criteria, hand feeding adult breeders, hand-prairing adult butterflies, egg production (includes indoor egg production), eggs, begin disease study, disinfecting egg surfaces (on or off the plant), trichogramma wasps, hatchlings, packing eggs and hatchlings for shipment, and more.
Hands On; You will disinfect (wash) eggs, feed hatchling larvae, we'll go into the back field and along the roadside to learn how to locate wild butterfly eggs, larvae, and adults for breeding stock, and more. You will help pack pupae to fill Monday exhibit orders.

Tuesday Study;
Caterpillars / larvae, molting, safe food, unsafe rearing conditions, disease signs and symptoms, adequate food, rearing container criteria, cleaning rearing containers, pupation (including how to tell when they’re going to actually pupate), what is inside the pupa, what happens during pupation, packing larvae for shipment, tachinid flies, chalcid wasps, and more.
Hands On; You will prepare food for larvae, feed and tend to larvae, and more. You will also help pack plants for Tuesday's plant orders.

Wednesday Study;
Pulling pupae, delaying pupae, disinfecting pupae, breeding stock pupae criteria, ‘pinning’ pupae, packing pupae for shipment, disease continued, and more.
Hands On; You will 'pull' pupae, disinfect breeding stock pupae, pack pupae for shipment, pin pupae for emerging, and more.
Visit the Butterfly Rainforest in the afternoon

Thursday Study;
Emerging adults, checking meconium for disease, checking Monarch adults for OE, adult butterfly care, packing adult butterflies for shipment, delaying adults, adult butterfly food, and more.
Hands On; You will check adults for oe and nosema, pack adult butterflies for shipment, release butterflies into protected screened gardens (apartments, we call them), feed butterflies (fruit and Gatorade hung in the apartments as well as nectar plant criteria and safety). You will help pack Thursday's retail adult butterfly orders.

Friday Study;
Plant production and care, plant pests and their control, farm layout (do and do nots), USDA permits, small native exhibit care, marketing to multiple customer bases, shipping companies, and more.
Hands On; You will propagate plants. You will have one final chance to repeat anything that you wish additional hands-on experience with at the farm.

Your $1,250 fee for one week includes:
  • Pickup and delivery to either the Jacksonville or Gainesville airport (if we don't have to wake up before dawn!)
  • All meals (and afternoon snacks) for the five days of your internship at the farm
  • One paid visit to the Butterfly Rainforest at the University of Florida

  • Meals:
    We include breakfast, lunch and dinner for the days that you are an intern. We enjoy eating but we are so tired at the end of the day that we rarely cook supper. Our meals are usually from a restaurant so you will have your choice of food. If you have special needs beyond the normal meals you will have to supply it for yourself. We do make trips to the market if you need to get supplies. However we are not close to town so please help us plan for special needs in advance.

    Allergies and/or Special Needs:
    If you have special needs, allergies, or food requests, please let us know before you arrive. We own a cat and we use bleach at the farm. If you have any special needs, we can better plan for your visit if you notify us as soon as we start discussing your plans to participate in either a seminar or the intership program.

    Housing recommendations

    * Jeans, modest shorts, tennis shoes (sandals do not work well with some of our greenhouse floors), t-shirts, and similar clothing.
    * Dress for dirty work! Nice clothing may become damaged due to bleach splashes, greenhouse fungus, dirt, and other interesting parts of our day's work.
    * For our walk to learn how to locate breeding stock from the wild, we highly recommend jeans and socks. We will walk among briars. Mosquitoes and ticks may join us on the walk. If you have a favorite insect repellant, bring it!
    * Butterfly Rainforest attire ranges from nice half-dressy to jeans and t-shirt. We wear jeans and shirt, sometimes sandals.
    * If you wish to attend church on Wednesday night (we do not always attend church and if you prefer not to do so it will not offend us in the least) acceptable church clothing at our church (First Christian non-denominational church) ranges from half dressy clothes to clean jeans and a t-shirt. We wear clean jeans and shirt.

    We are often asked;
    How can I learn how to raise butterflies?
    Where can I learn to become a butterfly farmer or butterfly breeder?
    We invite you to join us at Shady Oak Butterfly Farm in Florida for a one to three day Butterfly Breeder - Farmer Seminar or a one week Butterfly Breeder / Farmer Internship. Please email or phone if you are interested in this opportunity.