Make your own free website on

A comparison of price, rarity and cost of butterfly specimens: Implications for the insect trade and for habitat conservation (by Thomas H. Slone, Larry J. Orsak, and Olaf Malver), Ecological Economics (21:77-85, 1997).


Insects can provide one source of income to villagers as part of an alternative to logging. The Insect Farming and Trading Agency (IFTA) of Papua New Guinea aims to return as much income as possible to village-level insect collectors. An increase in demand or profit margin in the insect trade could potentially benefit sustainable forestry schemes that include insect collecting. The sustainability of insect collecting is discussed.

Species rarity, specimen prices, and species wing sizes are compared. Prices are greater for rarer species. Prices are correlated with wing size, particularly at the retail level, but rarity is not positively correlated with wing size. Consequently, it should be possible to selectively increase the prices of non-rare, larger species at the wholesale level. There is a large wholesale-to-retail price markup for some species. So, consumers are probably willing to pay a wide range of prices for some species, and therefore it may be possible for IFTA to raise prices for species when IFTA is the exclusive supplier and when there is an indication that there is low price elasticity. Although price increases may have a favorable impact on sustainable management of tropical forests, steady and long-term increased consumer demand for insects from tropical forests would likely have a more substantial impact. Income from extractive reserves is usually non-competitive with income from timber, hence a broad package of income sources is usually necessary.


Insect trade; Conservation; Sustainability; Papua New Guinea; Butterflies

Return to Thomas H. Slone’s home page.

© 1997 by Thomas H. Slone.

Last modified June 8, 1997.