A more nebulous category of insect commercialization surrounds the marketing of insects in the wild. Bioprospecting, ecotourism, and conservation enhancement are modes through which insects are marketed in an environmental context. These modes frequently interact to serve the broader intent of environmental protection.
Biodiversity prospecting involves the exploration, extraction, and screening of commercially valuable genetic and biochemically active compounds of plants, arthropods, and microorganisms for pharmaceutical development and agricultural and industrial use. That some 200 pharmaceutical corporations and biotechnology companies are now stalking the wilds in search of biological riches is convincing evidence of the economic potential ascribed to bioprospecting. The vast array of insect compounds that are being discovered, reexamined, and put to new uses in disease treatments lags behind that of the botanicals currently being exploited. In combination with the tendency of many insects to sequester or change plant compounds they have ingested, there is an enormous untapped source of potential insect or insect derived compounds for medicine in the biodiversity of this planet.
With advances in molecular biology and the availability of more sophisticated diagnostic screening tools, it is increasingly cost-effective for commercial organizations in search of new pharmaceuticals to seek out natural products. This trend has resulted in a soaring market for candidate biological specimens, a market that currently tops $40 million per year for the pharmaceutical industry alone. Because of the difficulty many governments have encountered in maintaining sovereignty and control over their resources, there has been a surge of interest in legislation governing access to resources and in ensuring that host countries benefit from the commercial products fashioned from their native species.
Tourism is the leading economic sector in several tropical countries. It is dependent on the lure of a warm climate, relatively low prices, and perceptions of relaxation, excitement, and even educational appeal. Ecotourism takes advantage of the attractiveness of adventure by offering the enticement and wonder of nature in an exotic setting. Insects, too, provide tourist attractions, and perhaps the best example involves the monarch butterfly, a popular insect in North America. A tropical species, it extends its range northward well into Canada during the growing season but cannot overwinter there. Individuals retreat southward for thousands of kilometers each autumn to take up residence in climes more amenable to their survival. These butterflies are attractive to ecotourism enterprises precisely because of this pattern of movement accompanying the remarkable biology of the insects. Almost anyone can view these beautiful butterflies flitting around meadows and parklands during the summer months. But as autumn approaches, they begin remarkable journeys southward and westward towards one of two destinations, depending on where they grew up. Those east of the Rocky Mountains migrate to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve at the high-altitude oyamel fir forests of Michoacan, in central Mexico, where they overwinter in extraordinary aggregations of millions of individuals. Those born west of the Continental Divide migrate southwestward and take up residency in the monterey pines, cypress, and introduced eucalyptus trees of Natural Bridges State Park and Monarch Grove Sanctuary in Pacific Grove, on the Monterey Peninsula of California, where they too overwinter in large aggregations. These two localities are ecotourist destinations. Entire tourist industries surrounding each locality are based on this amazing insect and its habitat. Accommodation, guided tours, and, in the case of Pacific Grove, considerable emphasis on fine dining, are featured. Organizations like Friends of the Monarch in Pacific Grove promote this ecotourism.
Conservation efforts fold together the concepts of ecotourism and bioprospecting in an effort to protect the landscape and the biota it contains. One intent of ecotourism is to sustain the environments that attract the tourists, permitting the business to remain viable. The indigenous Ejido community of central Mexico, for example, depended on income from logging in the buffer zone of the Sierra Chincua sanctuary, the largest and most pristine monarch butterfly overwintering area in the world. Through a leasing contract, the community agreed to cease logging sanctuary forests in exchange for compensation of lost income from ecotourism profits. When agreements are made with the care of the earth as a goal, bioprospecting can also be an instrument for conservation.
Although not big business, conservation efforts can involve the production and sale of insects. Indigenous populations that use natural areas will maintain them if profitable industries, based on gathering and selling renewable resources of the system, can be developed. Jewelry made from beetle elytra and sold at local tourist markets is an example. Insects are sometimes bred and released into the wild to enhance the preservation of the species. A butterfly breeding industry has emerged in many corners of the world where pupae are sold to collectors and accumulated for release into habitats where the species is, for one reason or another, becoming rare. In Papua New Guinea, participants in a butterfly farming project sell live and preserved butterflies to collectors around the world. They earn between $2500 and $5000 per year, 50 to 100 times the average per-capita income of $50. Residents who gain from this industry have a stake in protecting the local environment where wild butterfly stocks originate. Conservation groups encourage the sale of reared butterflies because that reduces the pressure on threatened and endangered species in the wild. Furthermore, by releasing a portion of the reared specimens back into the wild, the industry encourages ecotourism, which, in turn, brings added wealth to the community. A butterfly ranching project in Barra del Colorado in northeastern Costa Rica, is an example. It provides sustainable income for its participants and assigns a portion of the stock bred from wild and captive butterflies for release back into the wild.
See Also the Following Articles
Bee Products • Food, Insects as • Honey • Medicine, Insects in • Silk Production
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The information in this book is useful to anyone wanting to start beekeeping as a hobby or a business. It was written for beginners. Those who have never looked into beekeeping, may not understand the meaning of the terminology used by people in the industry. We have tried to overcome the problem by giving explanations. We want you to be able to use this book as a guide in to beekeeping.