selling insects for conservation

John Shuey jshuey at TNC.ORG
Mon Jul 16 11:10:07 CDT 2001

Sorry for cross posting, but I'm trying to get this out to everyone I
can.  Please respond directly to me at jshuey at

Here is a hypothetical question for the entomological crowd re/
commercial collecting as a conservation tool.  I'm trying to determine
if the following scenario would have a large enough client base to be
economically viable.  If so, I may propose that we explore this as a
pilot program.

First the rational - Wild collected insects and bulk samples of insects
can be "sold" to collectors and institutions as a tool to conserve
tropical ecosystems.  Local communities would derive economic benefit
from conserving natural and semi-natural systems in conservation buffer
zones by wild collecting high quality samples and specimens and selling
them to individuals and institutions.

The conservation "site" is a major watershed in Guatemala, and includes
swamp forests, mid-elevational forests, and two isolated cloud forest
systems supporting distinct forest types (limestone and granite derived
soils).  And of course lots of ecotonal habitats as well.

I know that there is a market for butterflies - and I'm not too curious
about that (but I don't think that a butterfly business alone would be
truly economically viable at the scale we want to work).  So, the
question of the day is what is the market for "bulk" samples of insects.

Here is what I envision.

All samples would have required permits, solid "data" including habitat
description (probably with digital photos of habitats) dates, lat, long,
  Samples would be unprocessed, preserved in denatured alcohol,
shipped in whirlpaks.

Sample collection stations would be "fixed" and would designed to sample
the complete array of habitat types at the site (10-20 stations
maximum).  So, if you were hot on scarab beetles, you could order a set
of baited pitfall samples from 5-8 habitat types from what ever seasons
you were interested in.  You might end up buying 20 samples total,
getting well over 2,000 scarab beetles (plus all those flies,
staphylinids, histers, ect).  Likewise for any of the other sample

Sample types (and run lengths) could include
- malaise trap - 7 days
- flight intercept - 7 days
- dung-baited pitfall traps - 7 days
- unbaited pitfall traps - 7 days
- blacklight traps - 1 night (alcohol preserved)
- Berlesey funnel extractions (don't know how to quantify this)
- lingren funnel traps
- other???

So here are my five questions.

Do you think that there is a market for high-quality bulk samples such
as these?

Would linking these products with similar sample lines from other
conservation areas throughout tropical America strengthen or weaken the
product line?

Is the bulk market sustainable for the long-term (my concern is that a
short list of institutional clients would buy for a few years, and then
institutional interest would dry up).

What do you think the market value of each specific sample type would
be?  (Keep in mind that I'm not interested in what you would like to pay
for a product like this, but rather what you would pay for the sample.
For this to work as a conservation tool, local communities need to see
real financial return from their habitats.  I'm suggesting that these
samples would be in the $50-$200 price range depending on the sample
type - cheap relative to traveling to all those sites yourself at the
correct season).

Do you have any other comments which we should consider before exploring
this as a conservation tool?

John Shuey
Director of Conservation Science
Indiana Office of The Nature Conservancy
1505 N Delaware Street, Suite 200
Indianapolis, IN 46202

phone:  317-951-8818
fax:  317-917-2478
email:  Jshuey at

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