killing butterflies

DR. JAMES ADAMS jadams at
Mon Sep 28 14:08:22 EDT 1998

Dear listers,

        I had vowed to myself not to post anything else having to do 
with this thread, but I've broken promises to myself before . . .

Mark Walker wrote: 
> 	Every individual that goes into the field to explicitly
> observe/study/investigate the natural world is obligated to keep records
> (however simple) of what is observed.  It is this behavior that gives
> watching and collecting a scientific value, regardless of an individual's
> credentials or even underlying motivation. 

I couldn't agree more.  Personally, I feel it is pointless, even 
inappropriate, to collect specimens without keeping data.  Indeed the 
data is *more* important than the specimen, as the data include not 
only the name of the species, but minimally information about where 
it can be found as well as a flight time (for insects that have 
wings).  Heck, I remember crying (yes, this really *did* happen) one 
time when I tried to catch a scorpion, only to mangle it 
terribly.  I didn't have enough of anything left to identify it and 
so felt tremendous guilt that I had killed this scorpion for 
ultimately no purpose.

Chris Raper wrote:
> > I think the sadest thing about the whole anti-collecting movement is
> > that, more and more now, I am getting stoped in the countryside and
> > asked why I am carrying a net.

I have noticed a very strange phenomenon associated with this very 
circumstance.  When asked what I am doing with a net, if I say I am 
collecting butterflies, I often get criticism.  When I say I am 
collecting insects, I often get interest.  Heck, I can even say I am 
collecting bees (which I have been known to do), which are arguably 
more important in many respects than butterflies to a given 
ecosystem, and many people will think I am a bit looney and *praise* 
me for collecting something *harmful* (that stings).  The human mind 
is a very bizarre thing!!


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