A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

Ron Gatrelle gatrelle at tils-ttr.org
Tue Sep 25 16:33:33 EDT 2001

Kenelm Philip wrote:
> Some of you may have received a mailing from the Mariposa Press
> describing some new books. I was interested to read that the book 'But-
> terflies of the World' by Sbordoni & Forestiero will answer the  question
> "...why do Norwegians, Alaskans, and Manitobans see polar fritillary
> butterflies only every other year?"
> Alaska is a largeish state--1/5th the area of the contiguous 48
> states, and nearly equal to them in linear extent. It's sometimes not
> safe to say that 'butterflies in Alaska' do thus and so--you have to add
> where _in_ Alaska. It's true that _Boloria polaris_ flies in odd years
> only in Interior Alaska (in alpine tundra)--but it flies every summer on
> the Seward Peninsula, in the Brooks Range, and on the North Slope.
> One may hope that the person at the publisher who wrote this blurb
> is the one who made the error, rather than the authors...
> Ken Philip
> fnkwp at uaf.edu

I think this is actually a fairly common error.  Folks who live outside a
region who have a good broad knowledge, but no or little specific knowledge
of said region, end up putting out a good bit of misinformation due to
assumptions.  This is one reason why I endorse and use state and regional
books so much - and have few on the eastern US, western US, or national
scope.  A "set" of books covering various states or areas of the eastern
US, for example, basically renders owning an "eastern" field guide of
little use - in my opinion.

Post the publication of Butterflies of North America, James Scott has
communicated with me more than one southeastern US species/subspecies
treatment he would have done differently had he known more specifics.
Specifics, often gained from our exchanges of information and specimens.
One is A. midea midea being limited to the GA SC coast and A. midea
annickae as a distinct ssp.

The Butterflies of Canada is a very good book.  But when compared to the
Butterflies of British Columbia by Guppy and Shepard the differences are
profound.  In a way these are apples and oranges - but broad books (on any
subject) can never supply the depth of information found in those of more
limited scope.  Thus, anyone who is interested in developing any kind of
knowledgeable depth at all on Lepidoptera will have to invest in that great
body of available literature that goes well beyond that the surface
"guides" of today.

Ron Gatrelle


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