The Numbers

HpAzures at HpAzures at
Tue May 29 14:13:24 EDT 2001


I've been waiting for this thread to come up to make a comment.  My post here is NOT to start up the collecting vs. watching debate, and had seriously considered not subjecting carolinaleps to a continuation of this thread, however, I am 
"replying to all".  However, I did want to point out a serious misunderstanding on the part of many well-meaning people.    

It is a misnomer to call everyone who uses a net a "collector".  If it helps to reassure the growing numbers of "watchers" on the 4th of July Counts who have the mistaken impression that anyone who carries a net is only collecting butterflies: understand that a net is a serious identification tool used by scientists and naturalists and is not necessarily a collection tool.  Biologists and naturalists also participate in the NABA counts and many of these are looking for rare or hard-to-I.D. butterflies.  I consider myself more of an observer who utilizes a net to help with identification.  I do not necessarily kill every butterfly that enters my net, though I "collect" representative samples of several species groups for serious taxonomic research.

There are many species that simply cannot be accurately identified by sight.  Even the best photographs do not do justice if the subject can only be identified from the upperside (i.e. Spring Azures vs. Holly Azures vs. spring form Summer Azures) and the subject does not open its wings.  [Apologies to Randy Emmitt, Mike Chapman, James Flynn and the other great photographers who have done a truly magnificent job in documenting butterflies on their websites, and to whom I STILL owe some I.D. input!!]  This is where in-hand hand identification provides a definitive answer (except where genitalic dissection is necessary, sorry).  I hesitate to identify many species based on a glance at 5 feet away.  My eyes are just not that good.
Thus, when I participate in outings where nets are a no-no, I will not record any butterfly if a sight I.D. could be questioned.  

OK, so let's give the "netters" (net-swingers, nettors) a break and not lump them in with collectors.  Perhaps this will bring some more acceptance/tolerance of netting.  

On this note, I also like to distinguish between "watchers" and "observers".  To me, an observer is one who carefully notes a butterfly's behavior, habitat preference, associated plants, egg-laying behavior, mating dance, etc.  I see a "watcher" as someone who simply looks at a butterfly to see what it is, nothing more.  I hope more "watchers" become "observers" in time.  

Perhaps the observers and netters can forge a greater understanding of, and respect for each other than either of the "extremes".

Now, what do you call someone who picks up live butterflies with tweezers?  I use this tool quite often in my Azure fieldwork...and I don't necessarily kill every one...well you know what I mean.

Harry Pavulaan


   For subscription and related information about LEPS-L visit: 

More information about the Leps-l mailing list