Voucher specimens

Kenelm Philip fnkwp at aurora.alaska.edu
Fri Sep 12 02:10:22 EDT 1997

	Mark Walker raised a relevant question:

>Why should it be unacceptable for me to collect unthreatened wild Leps
>purely for the pleasure of it?

	I have spoken up for scientific collecting on a number of occasions,
but Mark is perfectly correct--collecting _unthreatened_ wild leps 'purely
for the pleasure of it' is not a problem affecting the survival of leps
in North America, and presumably not in England either. Lepidoptera are
not like Doug Yanega's solitary bees--they can survive a bit of predation.
And note that when Neil Jones mentioned a species being removed from
a habitat by collecting, he was referring to an organized attempt, includ-
ing one or more commercial collectors, to overcollect a species known to
be uncommon. Whatever the situation may be in England, there are plenty
of unthreatened wild lepidoptera in North America. And in the northern
regions I am familiar with, with their vast expanse and nearly total
inaccessibility by highway, and immense lep populations, it is difficult
to conceive of collecting's being any threat to populations. In the state
of Alaska, approximately 40% of its 365 million acres (including much of
the best lep habitat) requires permits to collect--so rampant collecting
does not seem poised to destroy the butterflies...

	As far as I know, insects lack pain receptors in their nervous
system, so collecting insects should not be condemned by people concerned
about 'inhumane' treatment of animals. In my estimation, the increased
interest in and understanding of insects that can arise through collecting
is desirable--even if the specimens are not being obtained for scientific
purposes. (I still would encourage anyone engaged in collecting to seriously
consider donating the specimens to a museum, since the collection can be
useful for science even though it was accumulated for other reasons.)

	I know Neil is concerned about collecting's sending the wrong
signals to politicians in charge of protecting habitats. We have an example
of a different approach to this problem in the fact that hunters appear
to be a force for conservation of game and waterfowl habitat in the U.S.
Maybe we should add insects to the roster of 'game' animals?  :-)

	There will always be people who object to killing insects out
of curiosity, acquisitiveness, etc.--even though many of them may kill
far more insects just by driving, eating food, living in buildings, and
so forth. As I have said before, they are free not to collect insects,
but should not interfere with someone else's collecting. A little
toleration helps...

						Ken Philip
fnkwp at aurora.alaska.edu

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