Many people are squeamish when it comes to bugs, spiders, scorpions, and other "creepy crawlies". However, these animals, all part of a greater group of creatures known as arthropods, are big business for many hobby and pet suppliers. If your business involves shipping these live animals, then it is critical to use the right materials and techniques to keep your precious cargo alive and not run afoul of the law while doing so. Here are some best practices for shipping arthropods:
Know the regulations and laws
Mailing live animals of all kinds is a sensitive subject in the world of shipping, especially as it relates to interstate commerce laws and regulations. Violators can expect to receive heavy penalties for violating these laws and regulations, and ignorance of these rules is no excuse for a failure to obey.
That consideration is why you should know and understand the laws related to shipping arthropods. In the United States, the Department of Agriculture is responsible for regulating the transport of live animals across state lines. As such, they have established a couple of blanket prohibitions as it relates to the shipping of arthropods:
- No shipping of any live arthropods that are not native to the United States without a permit—this includes the ever-popular Madagascar Hissing Cockroach as well as species such as the Emperor Scorpion. Be sure that you obtain the correct permits necessary for legally shipping these animals.
- No shipping of noxious or pest insects such as locusts, grasshoppers, flies, and mosquitoes without a permit—some of these animals are used for scientific research as well as pet food for reptiles. It is important that you do not ship any of these insects without the permit in place, even if you are sending them for non-commercial reasons. Their accidental release could be devastating in terms of potential environmental damage.
There are many other rules, regulations, laws and exceptions as related to the interstate shipping of live animals. You should contact your regional Department of Agriculture office for further information about specific concerns.
Know how to package arthropods
The key for successful shipping of arthropods is to remember your cargo's most basic, immediate needs: oxygen, temperature regulation and moisture. While food is important for longer-term survival, adding food to a package along with your live animal can lead to problems. For example, food items that are detectable can lead to your package being "intercepted" by harmful insects that burrow into a box and destroy its contents. Therefore, it is better to omit food from arthropod shipments whenever possible.
As for the three needs listed above-oxygen, temperature regulation and moisture--you can easily make accommodations for your specimens by following a few guidelines:
- Adequately ventilate the exterior of a package—just be careful that you do not put too many or unnecessarily large holes in a box, or you risk damaging the integrity of the box. Also, be sure that the interior container, like those at Associated Paper & Supply, holding the animals is ventilated, too.
- Try to ship a package in a temperature window between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit - this applies not only to your shipping origin but also the destination. If this isn't feasible for some reason, then try to mitigate temperature extremes by using hot or cold packs. However, be especially careful when using cold packs that condensation is kept under control by placing them in a leak-proof bag.
- Pack live animals in a secondary package that permits you to insert a damp paper towel - as long as the shipment is expected to arrive quickly, you should find a damp paper towel to be adequate for moisture provision. Many arthropods are sensitive to drying-out, so don't forget this crucial step.
- Communicate with your buyer—be sure that your buyer waiting for the shipment understands the need to quickly remove the specimens from uncontrolled environments such as a front porch or outside mailbox. You can accomplish this by email, messaging or even a phone call.