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Permit to Rear Monarchs and Swallowtails

The Ontario Fish and Wildlife Act requires that any person rearing more than one individual specimen of certain butterfly species -- the monarch butterfly and any species of swallowtail -- must hold a permit from issued by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). For example, a person raising two monarch caterpillars requires a permit. See this TEA page for more legal details.

The TEA has had such a permit since 2010, and any TEA member can ask to be covered as an "assistant" under the permit. Membership in the TEA generally costs $30 per year (waived for students), with lower rates for multi-year memberships. None of this money goes to the government. All of it is used to fund our insect activities: publications, meetings, butterfly and moth atlases, etc.

Individuals can apply for their own permits. For details, see paragraph (2)(f) of the discussion of the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act on this TEA web page. However, our understanding is that permits are currently not being granted to individuals unless they have a detailed project proposal and an animal care protocol. Thus, joining the TEA's group permit may be preferable to applying for one's own permit.

MNRF permits have a limit on the quantity of ova, larvae or pupae that can be removed from the wild for rearing purposes in any year, The limit is imposed because it is difficult to avoid disease where large numbers are reared. This TEA's permit has a limit that varies by species: 100 for monarchs; 25 for Black Swallowtail, Giant Swallowtail, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and Canadian Tiger Swallowtail; and 10 for Pipevine Swallowtail, Spicebush Swallowtail and Zebra Swallowtail.

The permit also permits capturing and killing a few individuals of these species, perhaps for the purpose of making an insect collection.

The permit also covers monarch tagging. An unlimited number of monarchs can be tagged under the permit. The permit also authorize you to test monarch butterflies you are rearing for OE (a monarch parasite) using a specified protocol. 

The permit requires that the location of release be less than 50 km from the location of capture.

Please do not take livestock for rearing from a national park, provincial park or conservation area, as collecting any plant or animal from these areas is prohibited by law.

Presently about 130 individuals and families are on the permit. People can be added to the permit at any time.

To be on the permit, you have to agree to the following:

- Allow the TEA to provide your contact information (name, address, phone number and email) to the Ontario government. The government needs to know who is on the permit.

- Each fall, provide the TEA on request with information about your rearing activity under the permit. The TEA uses this information for a report to the government. The information needed is the number of each species removed from the wild, whether ova or larvae were captured, and (since there is always mortality) the number which were released.

All of the above details are specific to the TEA permit. Other permits issued by the MNRF could have different rules.

This article from the 2024 issue of the TEA newsletter (Ontario Insects) summarizes activities under the permit for 2023. Scientific opinion supports home rearing for the purposes of education and enjoying nature, and my understanding is that this is the goal of the MNRF's permit system. However, scientific opinion does not support "monarch rescue" (repopulating the species).

Contact Alan Macnaughton for more details about joining the TEA permit.