Chris: Re: IDing by net/release.

Chris J. Durden drdn at
Thu Jun 14 11:20:29 EDT 2001

    What I called "the friendly butterfly syndrome" is the tendency for a 
butterfly that has been in a bag for a few minutes, passed around so 6 to 
12 people can look at it closely, to be slow on release and to tend to stay 
on the hand or fly and settle on a person. The activity of the butterfly 
looks normal, except it fails to make the normal evasive maneovers.
    One could anthropomorphise (but one should not) that the butterfly was 
confused. I suspect that one or more of the following take place -
1. Butterflies respond to their image of an eye or pair of eyes. One can 
approach closer to a butterfly with the eyes hidden behind a camera than 
one can with unshielded eyes, in my experience. Eyes are of significance to 
butterfly senses. This is suggested by the frequent occurrence of eyespots 
in their patterns. After being viewed, up close by 12 or more pairs of 
eyes, a bagged butterfly may have its natural response swamped by visual 
stimulus. Hence the 30 seconds or so after it is released when it does not 
respond as expected. If this is the case there is probably no harm done.
2. Some plastic bags retain a noticeable level of aromatic plasticiser. The 
effect of this chemical on butterfly or human is not or poorly known. This 
may be a problem that may have lasting deleterious effect for both 
butterfly and human - a big unknown. I would be happier in a foreign 
hospital with a glass IV bottle than in a local hospital with a plastic IV 
bag. Note that I have no firm evidence for this view. It is just a cautious 
    If the butterfly is damaged, collect it and use it as a specimen for 
..................Chris Durden
- - A butterfly in the hand is worth two in the bush. - -

At 10:52 PM 6/13/2001 -0700, you wrote:
>tell me about the friendly butterfly syndrome, is this a convenient phrase 
>or is
>there a cause & effect?
>"Chris J. Durden" wrote:
> > I have used a similar method for the last 25 years. Coax the netted lep
> > into a ziploc baggie. Pass the baggie round the group for close examination
> > with magnifying glass. Last one lets it go.
> > I have used this method in protected areas with ranger approval, even
> > at Santa Ana NWLR in the old days.
> > The early baggies were pretty clean, but manufacturing has now gone
> > careless and some baggies have a lot of plasticiser left. I always choose
> > the brand and batch carefully by sniff test, both for lep use, and for
> > storage of human food. I have found that using a smelly bag on a lep will
> > produce the "friendly butterfly" syndrome - one that is torpid and does not
> > want to leave. I do not have this cute problem with clean bags.
> > ....................Chris Durden
> >


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