Big Cross Post

Ron Gatrelle gatrelle at
Fri Apr 12 15:04:53 EDT 2002

We just pretty much finished up a great series of posts on leps-talk about
the very latest in Phyciodes research.  I am not cross posting this to
start the whole thing over again on other lists (just see their archives)
but to make a new point to all lepsters everywhere (well at least on these
limited lists :-).   The point is this.  With what has been going on in
Celastrina (the Azures) and now what is coming out in Phyciodes
(Crescentspots) it blows all to pieces the idea that all general collecting
is no longer needed because all is known about our US (especially eastern)
species.   There was a time, say just 10 years ago, when literally everyone
interested in any aspect of leps thought of Azures and Pearly Crescents as
just "junk" species.  Now we see they are complex assemblages of cryptic
(to humans) species and subspecies - and smack in the middle of
evolutionary change!

Several of these "species" are not going to be identifiable to the human
eye no matter how long they sit on a flower.  If they were birds and had a
voice it would be a great help - but alas they are mute.  Mute to our ears
and to our eyes - but not to our microscopes and chemical analysis.

How many other mysteries are there under our noses.  Little Wood Satyrs?
Banded Hairstreaks?  Tiger Swallowtails?   One pattern has emerged.  It is
among the "common and widespread" entities that the siblings are masked and
hiding.  To the conservationist in me it tells me we need to discover
(collect), to determine, and describe these unknowns/unrecognized now while
they are still here and before it is too late.  The work being done by
Wahlberg and Scott on Phyciodes points out the need for local individuals
to supply specimens for analysis to them (especially from the southern US).
The entities are so wide spread and the questions so many, that it is
impossible for one or two "professionals" to do for just _one_ complex, let
alone all of them.

This post is not a sly way to promote "collecting".  It is a post to say
that the politicized agenda of anti-collecting and anti-scientific names is
totally counterproductive when it comes to real life conservation.  We can
not protect that which we do not know!  And we can not know without
specimens.   It is as simple as that.

I want to end this with a criticism of collectors.  Most collectors never
publish anything - other than a list of what they caught (just like the
watcher in what they saw).   One of my pet peeves is with people who have
collected and reared scores of taxa and never reported one word about life
histories, habitat, or photographed or preserved immatueres.  If collectors
want to be believed when they  say they are "scientific" then they should
act like it.  As a life long collector I can say this to my fellows.  Now
you watchers need to exhort other watchers to start keeping field data
records of flight behavior, preferred nectar of each species (i.e. yellow
vs. blue flowers), time of day courting, oviopsition on what plants,  etc
and not just make life lists.  Good birders are used to doing this
(recording field observations) and I would expect those who cross over into
leps to continue the same practices and teach others how to do it.

Don't just talk on behalf of butterflies - engage in field study on their

Ron Gatrelle

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