IDing by net/release.

Alex Netherton danetherton at
Sat Jun 2 18:44:25 EDT 2001

Thanks for saying this Ron;
I have to agree with this thread; I see any person who uses anything from
Nature as a "hunter", including birders. Hunting skills (which I lack to a
degree, including patience) are a prerequisite. I view folks who collect for
the furtherance of scientific inquiry (as is Ron) as responsible people. I
used to net butterflies to ID them, and though my hands were pretty good
then (wire jewelry craftsman), I found I was injuring about 1 out of 10. I
found this irresponsible, and now use the net to catch Deer Flies. (They are
trying to eat me....!)
I have said many times that I do not agree with the collecting/killing of
any living creature unless;
1.) It is for food. I have no quarrel with hunters who are hunting legal
game that have healthy populations *as long as* they are going to eat them.
I decry hunters who go Dove hunting and do not eat the birds, and I know
this goes on.....
2.)It is for the advancement of knowledge (as, it seems, Rons collection
is). I know many collectors keep butterfly collections as others keep a
stamp collection, and this seems a waste to me, and further, a
non-scientific collector would not know whether s/he were collecting a very
rare or endangered species until after identifying it, and many would not
3.) If the creature in question means active (not potential) harm to the
person. Why I use the net on deer flies, and  slap mosquitoes.

I like the idea of not using the net, as a pair of good close focussing
binoculars (or even a cheap pair) will get a good ID, without having to
traumatize one of the most delicate critters around.
Fascinating thread, and by the way, I was out in my front yard this AM
(suburban Asheville), and was surprised by a Mourning Cloak flying around
me, and flying off around the house. I more associate them with more wooded
areas. Also found a Painted Lady (the one with 4 spots is American, right?)
dead in the garden center of Wal Mart in Clyde NC (west of Asheville)
Alex Netherton
The Appalachian Naturalist
Asheville, NC
alex at
----- Original Message -----
From: "Ron Gatrelle" <gatrelle at>
To: "Leps-l" <Leps-l at>; "Carolina Leps"
<carolinaleps at>
Sent: Thursday, May 31, 2001 11:22 PM
Subject: IDing by net/release.

> I am not in favor of the netting/release of specimens for identification
> purposes by the general public.  Butterflies, specifically the small and
> tiny ones,  are delicate creatures. They need their legs and antennae as
> much as they do their wings. One of my pet peeves is when I see non
> collectors net specimens for identification and then release them. Here is
> why.
> Experienced collectors are very familiar with the damage that can easily
> occur to a specimen while in the net. Most collectors want specimens that
> are as fresh and perfect as possible - this includes having both antennae
> and legs intact. More and more collectors are also rearing specimens which
> necessitates that the legs and antennae are undamaged on captured females
> to insure that the sensory capability and mobility needed to oviposit is
> undamaged/unhindered. What does this mean?  Collectors become very adept
> being able to handle a specimen in the net without damaging it. However,
> some collectors can never do this simply because they are not gifted with
> the delicate dexterity (of a micro surgeon) to do this.
> Non collectors are almost always unaware of leg net damage. I have often
> seen non-collectors net specimens only to release them without an
> and worst of all, without forelegs. Hairstreaks, blues, coppers,
skippers -
> anything small will loose a leg or two very easily. A slightly smudged
> wings matters little upon release. But the loss of legs is a death
> sentence - if not to the individual to (if a female) its ability to
> and detect host plant chemicals that prompt oviposition.
> It is also irritating to me to see (or hear of) a non collector net a
> specimen examine it and then when it is "released" comment on how "tame"
> the individual is because it either hangs around on the persons hand or
> flies only a short distance (invariably downward) and immediately lands.
> Specimens do this not because they are 'tame" but because they are
> traumatized or injured - in shock - like a human in a car wreck. (Some
> specimens will stay on a hand to sip sweat or just "take a break". They
> never remain due to some "bonding" with the human.)
> As a butterfly collector it would not in inaccurate to call me a butterfly
> hunter. Hunters of all "game" indeed kill their quarry. But all hunters I
> know of are very sensitive to the "suffering" of the hunted. Butterfly
> hunters are no exception, we cringe to see crippled and maimed specimens.
> Rather than let them suffer we will "put them out of their misery".  I was
> once with some non collectors in the field. One netted a specimen to ID
> Upon its release I could tell it had been badly injured - they though it
> was tame. I quietly returned to the area and killed the poor thing. It
> had one leg and one forewing was out of "joint" and under the hindwing -
> couldn't fly and couldn't walk.
> If one is going to kill Lepidoptera - just do it. If not, leave them alone
> unless you really know what you are doing. People who want to net and
> release specimens need to first learn how this is properly accomplished
> from a true expert at this. (Remember, many will never be able to do this
> as they lack the "touch" to do it.)
> Ron


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