killing butterflies

Mark Walker MWalker at
Thu Sep 24 18:47:11 EDT 1998

Michael Walker wrote:

> First let me say that I am not against collecting for scientific purposes
> and I understand that some species are not possible to identify in the
> field without first killing it.  In Britain all of our butterfly species,
> yes I know we don't have many, are reasonably easy to identify with
> practise without capture.    
> I regularly give talks about butterflies to local wildlife groups, and
> often non wildlife minded groups as well, and have had no difficulty in
> getting people enthusiastic about butterflies without the need to show
> them
> a dead specimen in a case.  Perhaps we are just soft and sentimental over
> here on our "little-bitty island" but I am sure that I would not be as
> successful if I turned up with a collection.
	I'm not arguing with you here, because I suspect that you are right,
but why do you think this is true?  Because people would be turned off by
the display of dead specimens?  I had a similar reaction when I ran into a
fascinating stuffed bird collection at an obscure state park in
Massachusetts.  The birds had collecting tags on them, just like my
butterflies do, most dating from before 1900.  The image was a mixed one,
and I'm grateful that the collection was still being maintained.

	But aren't insects really different, after all (at least where they
exist in great abundance)?  One can argue in one breath that they are not
different, but in another they can curse the termites, bait the cockroaches,
swat the flies, strategize against the fire ants, and declare war on the
mosquitos.  Insects are different, and I'm not sure it's appropriate to
teach a false sentiment to your audiences.  This tends to breed hypocritical
behavior, which there is already no shortage of.
> I find that by showing slides of species that people are already familiar
> with and have probably seen in their gardens makes it easy to make the
> next
> step to talking about the problems our butterflies have in this over
> developed part of the world.  Many of these new converts are now regular
> recorders to the national "Butterflies for the New Millennium" project and
> are providing valuable data for the atlas to be published in 2000.
	What about "Flies for the New Millennium"?  It wouldn't work, would
it?  It might if you brought in a drawer of mounted flies.  Many are quite
fascinating, but for the most part remain unnoticed or detested.  Many are
also fighting extinction.  I do collect flies, by the way, but when I'm
hunting them everyone assumes that I'm killing innocent(?) butterflies.

	Mark Walker. 

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