All these "sales" and more

Runar Krogen rkrogen at
Sat May 2 14:23:53 EDT 1998

Since I am rather new to the list, I hope you will not blame me for
discussing themes that have been agenda several times before.

My intention with this mail is partly to speak about collecting in Norway,
partly to put into words impromptu my thoughts about collecting, exhanging
selling butterflies in general. 

I am a hobby-lepidoptrists, one of very few living in Norway. I do not
think that we are no more than 5 active lepidopterists in our country. As
one of these I regularly get mails and letters from persons abroad who want
to exchange or more rare: To buy butterflies from Scandinavia.

I study certain groups of butterflies and do this both by collecting and by
studying the butterflies in the field. As Mark Walker does, refering to his
mail of April 30., I too try to collect every specimen myself. It means
very much to me to have been at the habitat where the butterflies are and
combine the collecting with study of behaviour. I think that this is the
same with many collectors. Perhaps  "collector" is the wrong word, since we
collect only the species we need, put away our nets and study the
butterflies in different ways, not only in the field, but also by breeding
from eggs and caterpillars and by discovering new localities for different
species. In this way amateur lepidopterists have played an important role
in supporting the science with invaluable information. 

I hope we will have the opportunity to do so in future. That is one reason
for why I am not willing to support all laws around protecting butterflies
from collecting. But I have tried to live with them: Some years ago I
vistited a foreign country, which I then believed had protected
butterflies, but allowing collecting on permits. But I was not sure. I did
what I thought was right, contacted the country´s embassy in Norway and
asked them if there was such a law and to whome I could apply for a
permition. I did not get an answer at once, but later I called the embassy
again and got the answer that it was not such a law, anyone was allowed to
collect insects in that country. Now I know that I got the wrong
information. To make this even worse: This country give such collecting
permits if you are willing to pay for it, but I have experienced that
persons who has paid this money has not got the permit. Most probably a
dishonest civil servant had put the money in his own pocket. Well, I did my
trip to this country and collected some specimens limited to the groups of
butterflies I am interested in. But afterwards I was rather angry, since I
tried to do the things correct. If I had been taken for smuggling this
would have been embarrassing to me, since I am a customs officer in Norway.

As earlier mentioned I have most fun of a collection with butterflies
collected by myself and not by making the fieldtrip to the postoffice two
blocks down the road (On this trip I perhaps could see an Aglais urticae
and a couple of Pieris). Since I never collect more specimens than I need
myself, I seldom or never have any to exchange. I almost only make
exceptions for persons who need butterflies for scientific purpose. To
receive exchanged butterflies does not mean much to me. To buy butterflies
sounds like a nightmare. On the other hand I feel pity for those who are
living under such conditions that they are not able to collect butterflies
because there are no natural habitats left or collecting is protected by
laws. Also to those who for certain reasons are not able to travel around
in order collect and study butterflies. I surely would have lost the
interest for butterflies if I was among one of the two groups. But I have
found out that I have to treat everybody the same way, when they ask me, by
being honest and let them know that I do not collect more specimens than I
need myself. In contrast to exchanging, which I think is harmful as long as
no protected species are dealed with, I am strongly against those who try
to make money on bytterflies. Such activity does not put collecting in
general in a favourable light and it is an argument for governments to pass
laws against collecting, since also protected species often are included.

Instead of offering butterflies, I use every opportunity to invite
collectors from abroad to come to Norway and stay at my house for a time,
eventually if I have the opportunity, to take them to the habitats and join
them when collecting. I have met the same friendship abroad myself. To now
not a single person has appeared. I do not think I am taking a big chance
by mailing this out, but if every member on this list suddenly found out
that they should go to Norway this summer, my house would be crowded. There
is very little chance to do overcollecting in Norway. Two examples:
1. Clossiana improba. This butterfly is local and easy to catch. Where it
flies it can be seen in hundreds on a few square meters. Then one can walk
for half an hour without seeing a single specimen before the next locality
is found. Suddenly you again are surrounded by hundreds. No reasonable
person would be able to collect so many specimens that even a single
locality could be threatened.
2. Clossiana polaris. In contrast to improba, this species is not seen in
many specimens on the locality. It is typical rare. But this is a species
which is very difficult to catch, even with the eye, because it has a rapid
flight close to the ground. The behaviour of this butterfly is a protection
not only against birds but also against collectors. Besides, the flight
time is extremely short, only a few days when summer arrives north of the
arctic circle. And, there are localities far away from roads and
civilization. Only a very few are most probably known.

The largest threat to certain species in Norway is other human activity
than collecting. One example: Limenitis populi is locally a common species
in southern Norway. I know that this species has disappeared from many
localities in Europe, but to now this has not been the case here. It is not
at all threatened by collecting in Norway. But the Norwegian Forestry
Society regards aspen (Populus tremula) the food plant of the caterpillar,
a non-commercial tree. Therefore, by poisoning large areas, they have begun
systematically to kill the aspen. If this continue, it of course will
influence on Limenitis populi - and other insects - and birds - and the
whole eco-system in those areas. I do not hope we will end up with this
situation: 1. Our government is beeing told that L. populi has become
scarce. 2. The species is protected from collecting by law. 3. The killing
process of aspen trees is allowed to continue. What I mean to explain is
that protecting species from collecting is one thing that does not mean
much to most species, at least not here in Norway. What really counts is to
protect the biotops!

3 species are protected in Norway: Parnassius apollo, Parnassius mnemosyne
and Coenonypha hero. The first one is protected according to CITES. It is
common in certain localities in Norway. The argument for protecting P.
mnemosyne is interesting. The government says: "The species is restricted.
A protection may have a certain effect on commercial collecting. This
because the species is popular among collectors and is easy to collect."
Here commercial collecting is used as an argument. I think one reason is
that P.apollo and P.mnemosyne labelled Norway have been sold on auctions
further south in Europe. Coenonympha hero is very restricted in southern
Norway , and because it is living on it´s nothern distribution limit here,
it is very sensitive to minor changes in climat. The species will never
become common, and perhaps overcollecting can threaten the species. But
again, what really means something: The habitats of C.hero must exist.

Runar Krogen
Trondheim, Norway

rkrogen at

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