What is a lepidopterist?

Ron Gatrelle gatrelle at tils-ttr.org
Mon Jan 28 16:29:57 EST 2002

----- Original Message -----
From: "Rudy Benavides" <rbenavid at hotmail.com>
To: <1_iron at msn.com>; <leps-l at lists.yale.edu>
Sent: Monday, January 28, 2002 12:19 PM
Subject: Re: What is a lepidopterist?

> Jim Taylor wrote:
>Great question. I think you'd have to leave off the term "pro" else you'd
>excluding Leroy, Vernon Brou, et. al., who do not do this for a living.
> Jim,

When I wrote that, I was thinking more in terms of the level of the work
they do with leps, their overall knowledge, and their contributions to
lepidoptera and not so much in terms of doing professionally, full time.
So whether they do it full or part-time, there are lots of pros on this
list. At least that's the way I see it.
> Rudy

This was not intended as a controversial thread when Rudy first posted on
it.  But in actuality there is a very important underlying issue here.
Here is my take on this whole matter.

For hundreds of years the term lepidopterist was used by all people who
simply dealt with butterflies and moths in any way.  There was no other
term. Today The Lepidopterists' Society (est. 1947) exists as it always
has.  The Lepidopterist Society is a membership of "anyone interested in
any aspect of lepidopterology."  There are several other regional leps
societies in the US and many others around the world.   Here, the Ohio,
Utah, Southern etcs. are all the same.  They are made up of people with
entomological education and people with no formal education.  They are made
up of folks who collect and folks who mostly or only observe. Gardeners and
non gardeners.  Photographers, breeders, dealers.   This is THE only
accurate historical answer to the question of what is a lepidopterist - it
is _anyone_ and _everyone_ engaged in  any and every activity involving

Asking what a  lepidopterist is, is exactly like asking what a human being
is.  We are all humans - we are all lepidopterists.   Now, not every human
receives others humans as such.  This has been a continual human problem.
We have come a long way in eliminating prejudice and bigotry from world
society - though elements still remain.  But while society has made
progress in understanding the amalgam of humanity - the lepidopterist world
15 to 20 years ago begun to move in the opposite direction. (How do I know
the time frame?  Because I have lived for 20 years on both sides of that
time "divide". )

I got a private email from someone the other day who emphatically informed
me that they were "a watcher -- not a lepidopterist".   I was very taken
back by this for as an old timer I grew up in this butterfly thing as
viewing us as all the same - lepidopterists.

But a new generation has now come into being who are being raised up in a
segregated leps world.  They are being groomed to see differences. They are
taught to be separatists.  They are taught that they should sit in the
front of the buss and lepidopterists (which term they have been taught to =
collectors which term they have been taught to = poachers, killers,
destroyers, enemies of butterflies and moths.) should not even be alowed to
ride on the buss.   Until 15 +/- years ago there were no "butterfly wars"
at all among those who were involved with any and all aspects or activities
relative to butterflies and moths.  _What_ happened back then to bring this
current division about?  And _who_ started and is promoting it?   It is not
historical lepidopterists, their societies, or their leadership.

Because lepidopterists are multifaceted they are tolerant and embracive of
all other lepidopterists whose specific interests differ from their own .
Lepidopterists are unifying not divisive.  Lepidopterists go both ways -
that is they will be members of both Lep Soc and NABA for example.
Lepidopterists are integrated and are not net-phobic, voucher-phobic,
watch-phobic, garden-phobic, etc.   Lepidopterists and their societies
still see us as they always have - one group with one interest.

 Ron Gatrelle


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