RE. The numbers neil and balance

Neil Jones carstore at
Wed May 30 11:12:06 EDT 2001

Ron Gatrelle wrote:-
> Neil Jones wrote the following:
> "I'm afraid that Leroy has made a common error of simplification in the
> collection argument. It seems to me that he is repeating the common
> that collecting cannot do any harm.
> I made this posting some time ago, in February 1996,  and I have reposted
> itseveral times in various places because the same point seems to be
> being made continuously. It better answers points which were made at the
> time it was originally posted but much of it is valid in answer to the
> general point being made here. Incidentally I discovered after mking this
> posting that there is one very well documented example of an extinction
> caused by collecting in the lepidoptera, that of the New Forest Burnet
> Zygaena viciae yetenensis in the 1920s in the UK."

> **********

First of all. Let me explain my position. I have been a lepidopterist since
early childhood. I have a lot of experience breeding butterflies. I run a
trap regularly. I carry a net when I am abroad where it is permissable. (It
is rarely
necessary for ID here in the UK.)

A few days ago you could have seen me "collecting" caterpillars with a
which he wanted to rear on to properly identify. I don't, and never have,
set specimens of butterflies although I have been known to dissect other
insects where it
is necessary to identify them.

 I don't want to see collecting banned because it would stop the proper

I know I irritate some extreme collectors. Their justification is you need a
huge collection
of specimens in order to properly study butterflies. This isn't true. My
is in studying them and I believe I learn more by observation.

> Neil has done us collectors a great service here. This is the first time I
> have seen this post but I do hope it is posted many more times - at least
> annually.

I really wish that Ron wouldn't polarise the debate like this.

> How and why is that? First, how did he help collectors? He showed that we
> have virtually no impact on lepidopterous populations.   Neil has just
> informed us that in all his vast experience and knowledge he only has - by
> his own words "ONE" documented case in the last 1,000 years where
> collecting did in a lepidoptera.  And this was back in 1920 - in the
> Kingdom.

Please pay attention I didn't say in 1920 I said in the 1920's.
Its not that I am being pedantic. It is that you are constantly missing the
in an argument and drawing the wrong conclusion as a result
I didn't say it was the ONLY case of damage. It is just well documented.
Another ssp of the moth has been discovered in the UK and on occasions
its population has been in single figures. Its location is a secret for

> Second, why post this annually?  Because it continues to demonstrate that
> there is no documented impact.

This is illogical. I state that there is documented impact and you say that
this demonstrates there isn't any. This is poor thinking and logic.
Besides I don't post it annually. Just when the point is valid.
This is a classic example of an emotional and illogical response
to the debunking of a cherished myth.

> For if there was, he surely would cite the
> many instances that occur each year. FACT - there  are no (1?) documented
> incidences of collector caused extinctions - or even "wiping" out of
> colonies (which is something I could believe).

No. Again you are not thinking or doing your research. You should know
if you pay attention that I have more data.

>( I personally collect very
> few butterflies on a yearly basis and would be in agreement with Neil that
> there are definitely "unethical" collectors out there.)

> Let's look at Neil's words -- "I'm afraid that Leroy has made a common
> error of simplification in the collection argument. It seems to me that he
> is repeating the common fallacy that collecting cannot do any harm."

> Now let's apply the rule "Judged as we judge."   I'm afraid Neil has made
> common error of simplification in the collection argument. It seems to me
> that he is repeating the common fallacy that collecting does enormous
> harm."

The enormous harm that collectors often do is often not by collecting
but by endorsing, promoting and spreading the ideology that leads to the
destruction of habitat. Ron Gatrelle, you may not wish to drive the
bulldozers that destroy the habitat but by promoting ideas that facilitate
it in a social forum you are putting gas in the tank.

Now here is the data I have on collectors doing damage. I am not saying that
collectors are like this but unfortunately you rarely see this sort of
I would rather not post the data here since I don't want collecting banned
it annoys collectors but Ron Gatrelle has challenged me for data so here is
just a taster.
This comes from a posting by Dr Patrick Roper. Who does collect insects
but not butterflies. It consists of exerpts of a posting he made on the 6th
1995. The full detail can be found in a very rudimentary FAQ that I started
but never
completed a few years ago. (Consequently there are broken links)
The FAQ is at


Brown Hairstreak (Thecla betulae)

The London Branch of Butterfly Conservation worked hard in the late 1980s
early 1990s to restore the habitat of this species at a site in Surrey.
Eggs were being laid in good numbers on Blackthorn when persons unknown came
along and removed a large amount of Blackthorn wood, complete with
hairstreak eggs, with secateurs, thus severely damaging the colony.

The Sussex Branch of the same organisation tried to safeguard a Brown
Hairstreak colony along an old railway line.  In the early 1990s they
advertised a field trip to the site for members in their bulletin and this
provoked very unwelcome visits by collectors.  As a result they no longer
advertise field trips there.

Both these sites now have to be kept on the "secret" list.  The Brown
Hairtreak is shy and retiring as an adult and collectors know the easiest
way to fill the gap in their cabinets, or get that special variety, is to
breed them from wild-collected eggs.

Purple Emperor (Apatura iris)

Ken Willmott in his excellent little book about the Purple Emperor published
by Butterfly Conservation in 1990 says: "Sadly collecting is still a problem
in some localities and every year on can see the bases of sallows strewn
with twigs and branches that have been torn from the trees... Sometimes this
wanton vandalism reaches such proportions that the damaged sallows are
removed by foresters the following spring because of their sorry condition.
The Purple Emperor is far too precious a creature to end up in a display
cabinet and it is to be hoped that the threat to the butterfly from
collectors and dealers will quickly become a thing of the past."

Duke of Burgundy (Hamearis lucina)

I know two places where egg-bearing cowslip leaves have been picked by
collectors and where this is regarded by members of Butterfly Conservation
as having been a major contribution to the extirpation of the colony.  In
one case the habitat was on the Surrey Downs and was the nearest to London.
The other in West Sussex is close to my own heart because my wife and I saw
the adult butterflies there before she became too disabled to walk that far.
It was a wonderful afternoon in a wonderful place and it is sad that others
will no longer be able to enjoy it in quite the same way now the Dukes have

Neil Jones- Neil at
"At some point I had to stand up and be counted. Who speaks for the
butterflies?" Andrew Lees - The quotation on his memorial at Crymlyn Bog
National Nature Reserve


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