Another response to Kevin J. Caley

Bob Kriegel kriegelr at
Fri Jun 13 11:57:38 EDT 1997

Mr. Caley writes, " an advocate of the production of solid keys
(pictorial or otherwise) which allow the identification of an organism
without killing it
in the process".

Most keys for microlepidoptera (those thousands of species of moths most of
whom are even smaller than little-brown-jobs) are based on characters of the
genitalia.  Unless you are advocating vivisection, it is necessary to kill
an individual before keying it out.  It it one thing to be able to
distinguish some of the larger butterflies from a distance using binoculars.
It is quite another to be able to distinguish all of the lycaenids or
skippers at a glance.  It is simply not possible to distinguish between
thousands of species of microlepidoptera prior to killing them, pinning and
spreading the specimens, and dissecting their genitalia.  The saddest part
to all of this is that there are very few folks who have any interest, let
alone the patience to do this work.  They do it because they enjoy it; very
very few are actually getting paid for it.

P.S.  I have always been amazed at how many butterflies I am able to
identify in that fraction of a second between the time they fly in front of
my car and when they disappear onto my windshield.

Bob Kriegel
systems analyst, avocational lepidopterist, and active conservationist

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