NABA and butterfly watching

Mike Quinn mqnature at
Sun Jun 20 00:23:47 EDT 1999

John Acorn wrote:

<slight snippage>

>The impression
>I get from NABA's publications is that they (or the editors) believe that
>the thinking has been done for us by NABA's expert team, and the rest of us
>need not pursue the issue further.  My favourite example involves their
>unwillingness to discuss catch and release as another non-consumptive way to
>study and appreciate butterflies.

Yes, catch-and-release is mostly non-consumptive but it is usually damaging
(to one degree or another) to the flowers that the butterfly happened to be
nectaring on. Personally, I wouldn't mind anyone setting up a malaise trap,
pit-fall trap or black lighting in my backyard, but I'm not particularly
interested in having anyone whacking through my flowers with their nets. I
don't believe that anglers harm the streams where they catch-and-release
their fish.

IMHO nets are fine for county road sides and private property, but I'm not
particularly thrilled with the aftermath of their use on public property.
John, when you go to Sierra Vista later this year and then walk up Garden
Canyon on Ft. Huachuca, you will be in what is probably the single most
biodiverse canyon this side of the Mexican border. Unfortunately, there
will probably be ample evidence of fellow lepidopterists who have gone
before you. Many plants will be whacked. When you see such plants, look
down at your feet. You may see pinched specimens that were discarded
because they didn't meet some collector's standards of perfection... (The
dark side of butterfly "collecting.") (Now if them weren't fighting words,
I don't know what are!)

>Another example is the lack of concern
>among watchers that close focussing binoculars only allow you to look at a
>butterfly with one eye at a time, once you reach the closest focus point!

This is true with high magnification (>7x) binoculars, but I can still use
both eyes with my 5x binos.

>With help, I have solved this problem, but who wants to listen?  I tried to
>publish an article on butterflying optics in American Butterflies, and
>didn't even receive an acknowledgement of receipt.

John, I think your solution to the "one-eyed" problem is brilliant. I don't
know why it wasn't accepted for publication. Glassberg is not particularly
difficult to get in touch with. If you call NABA's phone number
(973-285-0936), Jeff will answer.

>Speaking of Glassberg's editorial, here's the part that surprised me:
>"Modern butterflying began in the mid 80's with the switch from nets to
>binoculars by members of the New York City Butterfly Club."  Perhaps for him
>it did, but despite the impression he gives, he and his friends did not
>invent the idea of watching butterflies.  I have always given credit to Bob
>Pyle for launching "modern butterfly watching," and his books were written
>before the mid 80's, and originated in Washington state, as far as I know.
>His writings were my own inspiration, and at the time I had never heard of
>the New York Butterfly Club.

In Pyle's "Handbook for Butterfly Watchers" (1984), he writes on page 2
that "the birthplace of butterfly studies" was Great Britain. Pyle's
"Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies" (1981)
certainly was my inspiration for getting into butterflies. In addition to
the usual species' description and life history information, he brought to
light some fascinating aspect about almost every butterfly; that is
unparalleled in my experience with field guides.

I do find it interesting to note that Pyle used many English names of his
own coinage but did not include the scientific name under the photos and
nobody seemed to raise a great deal of fuss. Glassberg used English names
(drawn up by a committee) and included the scientific name opposite the
plates in both his field guides and everyone hits the roof. Go figure.

Pyle got started in butterflying with a net and I believe still prefers
catch-and-release. Glassberg used a net for "almost 40 years" ("Am. Butt."
5:1). I myself have collected 10s of 1000s of insects though not many
butterflies, too much work. John, I'm sure you've collected your fair share
of insects. So frankly, I don't see what all the commotion is about. My
personal preference is to watch. The only time I will argue on this issue
is when I hear it said that collection is the only or best way to study
butterflies. Or, conversely, if someone says that they would dismiss the
validity of all sight identifications.

>Perhaps the word "modern" has a peculiar,
>elitist meaning here, and one that is at the heart of the problem we are

I don't think the word "modern" is particularly elitist. John, I'm not
saying its not justified, but I think you have a bit of a chip on your
shoulder when it comes to NABA. I believe that Pyle and Glassberg exchanged
letters expressing differing points of view in the "News of the Lep. Soc."
as you and Glassberg have, yet Pyle has an article in the current issue of
"American Butterflies."

NABA is on track to exceed the membership of the Entomological Society of
America, more than 8,000 in 1996. Glassberg's actual aim is to make
butterflying as popular birding. There are 25,000 members in the American
Birding Association and 20 million Americans loosely call themselves

Respectfully, Mike Quinn, Donna, TX

More information about the Leps-l mailing list