Educating Butterfly watchers - NABA drops the ball

Barb Beck barb at
Fri Jan 25 08:52:03 EST 2002


We are all consumptive butterfly watchers. All of us need to understand a
butterflies can be killed by collecting a needed specimen, by destroying
habitat or stepping on immature stages while trying to get a perfect natural
photo, by a non-netting flied trip where people scamper off the path for a
better view of a specific critter, by our cars as we drive to our favourite
spot to view butterflies and (most importantly) by ignorance of what we have
and what they require.  The best we can do is try to make our footprint as
small as possible and try as much as possible to make those footprints
helping preserve butterflies.

The fact that we have so very much to learn about the species of butterfly
that we have and the fact that scientific collection is necessary is exactly
where the NABA is dropping the ball if they want to protect butterflies.
They do not have to encourage people to collect butterflies. They do not
have to conduct field trips with nets.  They do not have to use nets for
counts if they are in an area where the butterflies can be effectively
identified without a net. BUT, they have to encourage an appreciation for
those who are working on trying to figure out what we have.

We cannot go around saying we already know everything that there is to know
because in many parts of North America that is not correct.  My students are
very bright Environment and Conservation students who are willing to take a
killer course in advanced wildlife field identification from a really tough
old mean instructor.  At the start of the class they are not willing to kill
a butterfly.  After we cover the butterflies and they see how many species
we still do not know enough about most are willing to collect samples of
these species to send in for further study.  I respect those who are
unwilling to kill a butterfly they are swell kids and their heart is in the
right place.  I think they at least  appreciate the need for scientific
collecting. Often when we just read a butterfly book it looks like
everything is known.  Norbert Kondla has helped me greatly in showing them
how little we know about some species by giving us his wish list of things
he would like to study more and an update to a book which clearly explains
the confusion in some of our species and where possible changes are in the

It might greatly help if those of you experts working on things could
communicate more with the non-experts some and explain exactly what you are
doing.  Ron had a great example not long ago where by collecting a few bugs
and examining some collections he was able to establish really good field
marks which are clearly visible with binoculars when the species were
finally sorted out.

We can personally stay in separate camps and are certainly free to do so but
can the butterflies afford it?

Barb Beck
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


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