Devastating reality behind 'truly awful' wedding trend: 'Should be illegal'

Butterfly releases are a ritual said to be symbolic of 'new beginnings and new life' but they're proving deadly.

Weddings are synonymous with love, laughter and happiness, but there's a darker side to the celebratory day that's certainly not worth celebrating.

Butterfly releases, a ritual said to be symbolic of "new beginnings and new life", are a popular choice for many couples getting married, and are also seen at funerals, birthdays and other occasions. But the "beautiful" act of seeing the winged insects fly up into the air is often ruined by the fact they rarely survive.

"As an organisation, we don't support it. It's not very humane," a spokesperson from Bribie Island Butterfly House told Yahoo News on Thursday. "If they're not transported correctly, it results in a very high mortality rate, which is not very humane."

Butterfly release at wedding.
Butterfly releases are a popular wedding trend, but are often considered harmful to the insects. Source: Getty

The ritual sees the butterflies kept in a box for "mass release" or an individual envelope, and when prompted, are released into the air for entertainment. Wanderer butterflies, also known as monarch butterflies, are usually used for the celebratory trend because they "look quite spectacular" when seen flying, entomologist Professor Nigel Andrew told Yahoo. Their large size and colouration — orange-brown with black wing veins and a black and white spotted band along the edge of the wings — make an impact.

Bride slammed for considering 'gross' trend

In many cases, the winged insects die before they're even released and many are calling for it to be banned. A debate erupted on social media this week when a future bride raised the topic. She asked in a wedding planning Facebook group what others thought of the "beautiful" trend, but she was met with a fiery response.

"This is probably one of the grossest wedding ideas I've seen to date," slammed one in the comments. "This should be illegal," another said, adding it was "horrible". Others agreed there are often "truly awful" consequences for the insects trapped inside which are often "starved or dehydrated" before being released.

Butterfly release wedding trend Facebook post
A bride asked about the trend for her own wedding but was met with backlash. Source: Facebook

The problem with butterfly releases

Professor Andrew, from Southern Cross University, agreed the trend is "weird" and problematic, not just for the safety of animal but for the environment. He confirmed "it does cause pain to the insect" and even though they're "migrating" butterflies "quite commonly found around Australia," a change of environment can be harmful.

"I would anticipate that most of the individuals released aren't going to survive because they're in a very different environment to where they were actually reared," he explained. "For example, if your butterflies or caterpillars were reared, say, up in Cairns and you took them down to Melbourne to release, a lot of them might just die because they can't deal with the difference in the climate they're being exposed to".

"There’s also the potential for them not to perform as well as you’d expect because they haven’t been acclimatised," he added. "It's like if we go from being an air-conditioned room out into 38-degree heat, we get that really big impact. And for insects that can just kill them straight away."

Orange and black monarch or wanderer butterfly in Australia.
Monarch butterflies, also known as the wanderer, are commonly used for the butterfly release at events. Source: Getty

ProfessorAndrew said we "really need to consider" why we are using live animals "just for a celebration". "I think there are better things to do to celebrate," he said. "It’s in a similar vein to confetti, that can be problematic in an environment. They're not there to enhance the environment, they're there just for the celebration."

Animal Welfare group PETA also condemns the idea saying butterflies are "often flattened and sealed in envelopes or tiny boxes and then shipped over long distances". "Many are crushed or die from exposure before they even reach their destination," it says on its website.

Monarch or wanderer butterflies were first introduced to Australis in the 1800s. Now they're found in eastern and southern Australia, in Queensland, NSW, Victoria (uncommon) and South Australia. They are commonly seen in Sydney during summer, according to the Australian Museum.

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