Steps to importing butterflies and moths

To import butterflies and moths into New Zealand there are special procedures to help reduce any biosecurity risks. We've created a step-by-step process so you can see what's involved.

Follow the steps 

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What you need to know

An overview of importing butterflies, moths, and their pupae from start to finish.

To successfully import butterflies and moths into New Zealand you must know about:

  • the import health standard (IHS) for tropical butterfly and moth pupae
  • approved species
  • completing a zoosanitary certificate
  • applying for a permit from MPI at least 6 weeks before the intended date of import
  • importer or agent to lodge consignment documentation (for example, bill of lading, packing list, import permit, zoosanitary certificate) through Trade Single Window (TSW) prior to import.
  • post-arrival quarantine needs
  • fees and charges.

Once imported into New Zealand, butterflies and moths spend the rest of their life cycle in a zoo containment facility. Apart from the possibility of changing containment facilities, they'll never be eligible for biosecurity clearance. 

Only approved zoo operators can import

To import zoo animals, including butterflies, moths, and their pupae, you must operate an approved zoo containment facility.

If you don't operate a zoo or animal park but want to import zoo animals, you'll need to apply to MPI to become an approved containment facility. This involves a complex series of assessments of competencies in appropriate fields and becoming an approved operator. 

The requirements for containment facilities are detailed in a standard.

Download the standard for containment facilities for zoo animals [PDF, 662 KB]

Download the guidance notes for applying to become an approved facility [PDF, 585 KB]

Zoo animals transiting New Zealand 

Zoo animals, including butterflies and moths, may transit New Zealand on their way to another country. Animals in transit must remain on the vessel or aircraft that brings them to New Zealand at all times and can't stay longer than 24 hours.

Zoo animals transiting New Zealand are subject to biosecurity requirements.

Related importing processes

Processes for importing other animals or products are provided elsewhere on this website. Follow these steps if you're importing:

What you need to do

The tasks you need to complete.

Check that your butterfly or moth species can be imported

For your butterfly or moth species to be eligible to be imported into New Zealand, it must be:

  • included in the import health standard (IHS) tropical butterfly and moth pupae, as approved by the EPA for importation into containment
  • sourced from tropical locations or facilities maintained at temperatures of at least 20˚ Celsius
  • from a premises free of quarantine restrictions during the 90 days before its date of departure.

Comply with IHS requirements

The IHS has all of the information you need to import your butterfly, moth, or pupae from approved countries.

You need to read and understand the IHS for the butterfly or moth species you want to bring to New Zealand. Make sure you can meet all of the IHS requirements before you start.

Apply for a permit

When your arrangements for a transitional or containment facility have been approved, you can apply for a permit to import.

Download the permit for importing live animals:

You'll need to:

  • apply for the permit at least 6 weeks before your butterfly, moth, or pupae leaves the country of export
  • complete and sign the permit application form (it may take up to 10 working days for MPI to process the permit application form)
  • send the application form to MPI with the permit fee.

Prepare your documentation 

You must have all of the correct documentation ready to present to an MPI official on arrival.

Documentation may be in multiple languages, so long as one of the languages is English, and must include:

  • the zoosanitary certificate from the IHS
  • a copy of the import permit.

Transporting butterfly and moth pupae

When transporting butterfly and moth pupae to New Zealand you must make sure that:

  • pupae of butterflies and moths are transported by air and carried in a container that meets the requirements of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Live Animal Regulations for insects
  • each consignment is packaged in a way that prevents the escape of any butterflies and moths that may have emerged during transport
  • the containers are closed with tamper-evident seals.

Comply with extra requirements if using wood crates or containers

If your consignment is shipped to New Zealand in wooden crates or containers, or wood has been used as flooring or walls, you'll also need to comply with the requirements for importing wood packaging.

Getting your import documentation

How you know you've met MPI requirements.

Arrival procedures in New Zealand

The paperwork for your consignment will be checked at the border. The consignment will be sent to the designated transitional facility inside your zoo, where the butterfly or moth pupae will be checked.

If all aspects of the transitional facility (quarantine) requirements are met and all supporting documentation is in order, the butterfly or moth pupae are eligible to move to the containment facility.

If the consignment fails to meet any of the requirements, it will either be:

  • held in the transitional facility for further inspection, tests, or treatments  
  • reshipped to another country or sent back to the country of origin
  • destroyed.

You'll be required to pay for any costs involved.

Quarantine for pupae

There are quarantine requirements for butterfly and moth pupae imported into New Zealand.

All imported pupae must be held in the quarantine room of the containment facility.

Pupae must be checked daily for signs of disease and:

  • any diseased pupae must be held in a sealed container until disposed of by MPI-approved methods
  • all packing materials used in the importation must be held in the containment facility before disposal by MPI-approved methods
  • on emergence, the healthy adult butterflies and moths can be moved to the display enclosure within the containment facility.

The pupae may also be subject to tests, treatments, or procedures, as required by the Biosecurity Standards Group Manager, to determine the health status of the consignment.

Who to contact

If you have any questions about importing zoo animals, butterflies, or moths, email

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