What is a lepidopterist?

Grkovich, Alex agrkovich at tmpeng.com
Tue Jan 29 14:16:59 EST 2002

I believe the term "butterflier" was coined to signify the members of what
was supposed to be a new "movement". Many open-minded "butterfly watchers",
it seems to me, refer to themselves as "butterfliers" when they are, I am
sure, lepidopterists. One of my very knowledgeable friends from Connecticut,
who  himself does not collect, referred to himself, I believe correctly, as
a :"epidopterist".

Let me recite a sentence from the second Butterflies thru Binoculars book:
"...Most of the data we now have has been compiled by collectors. This data
will now permit US [capitalized here, but not in the book] to move

Who is this "US" supposed to be? And what was supposed to happen to the
"collectors"? Were we supposed to simply disappear? Ride off into the
sunset, so to speak? Regardless of the fact that, admittedly, we collected
the data! The intention was for a movement (or an "empire", as one prominent
Lepidopterist put it to me last year) to develop and grow, at the expense of
the traditional "lepidopterist", regardless of whether he/she collected or

This type of thing is very bad for all and for everyone. Such "movements"
are in fact, by definition "sects", not even "clubs". And it seems to me
that most of us who love the study of Lepidoptera, regardless of whether or
not we "collect", are waking up to this. 

> -----Original Message-----
> From:	Ron Gatrelle [SMTP:gatrelle at tils-ttr.org]
> Sent:	Tuesday, January 29, 2002 3:25 AM
> To:	MWalker at gensym.com; leps-l at lists.yale.edu
> Subject:	Re: What is a lepidopterist?
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Mark Walker" <MWalker at gensym.com>
> Subject: RE: What is a lepidopterist?
> > Not to be controversial, but I don't entirely agree with Ron.  I
> wouldn't
> > call everyone who has an interest in animals a "zoologist".  Likewise,
> the
> > term "lepidopterist" is better reserved for those with a strong link to
> > scientific activities - regardless of any professional affiliation.
> > Similarly, I do agree that formal education is NOT a requirement - nor,
> as
> > I've mentioned, is net swinging.  The bottom line: if you think you're a
> > lepidopterist, then you are.
> >
> > Mark Walker.
> And these differences in opinon/definiton are certainly allowed.  The
> problem comes in when, let's say, Mark starts an organization devoted to
> bats.  The group grows and has a lot of members.  Mark has been telling
> his
> mambers that they are batters and not zoologists.  (He has also told his
> group that zoologists mostly just kill bats for fun or study - which is
> not
> needed any more as we known basically all there is to know about bats.)
> Being that this is all his membership have been exposed to in
> terminological definitions, they now insist to all that they are
> absolutely
> not zoologists. They are batists.  One day one of the batty people happens
> to pick up a copy of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature and
> just hapens to go to the glossary and find the following.
> "zoologists. n. Anyone, regardless of profession, who studies animals."
> Since bats are animals he relaizes that the term zoologist is a very broad
> non specific term and that it has thus been wrongly defined to him.
> (Several chapters in this story skipped at this point)  The final chapter
> has the individual excommunicated from the batty group for claiming that
> while they are indeed batty specialists they are also zoologists by formal
> defination.
> One man's opinion is just that a personal opinion - view.  When it becomes
> the dogma of a group or society, if it is in error, we end up with things
> like communists calling their elections "democracy".  And then having that
> communist regime turn around and say that what they have is democracy and
> what we have in the west is not.
> Lepidoptera and Coleoptera are latinized terms.  There have long been
> lepidopterists and coleopterists in clubs and societies composed of such.
> A coleopterist is simply a latinized way of saying beetle interested
> person.  A lepidopterists is just a butterflist or moth-er.   That is all
> they mean and have ever meant -- until recent history when negative and
> divisive connotations have been introduced and applied to the term
> lepidopterists.  There are people now who would strongly object to being
> called lepidopterists - I'm like, where in Hades did that come from?
> A very true story.
> Several years ago there was a single white mom in my church who had a
> little boy of 5 who had just started school here in the South.  One of our
> associate pastors was black.  His family and this lady and son were good
> friends.  One day at breakfast the little boy refused to eat his cereal.
> The mother asked why.  The little boy said it was because Fred (the black
> man) had eaten out of it before.  The mother was still perplexed and asked
> further.  Then the little boy said, Mom Fred is black.  The mother was
> extremely angered as she had not brought her son up this way as the boy
> and
> the black kids and families had always gotten along fine.  She said this
> next phrase, and I will never forget it.  "Who told you Fred was black?!"
> The child was five, he had eyes and obviously knew who was black, white,
> Latino,  Asian etc.  Someone (likely a kid at school) had injected racism
> into this innocent kids though processes.  Indeed who told you Fred was
> black?  Who told you lepidopterists were - "different from us",  "to be
> avoided",  "not what we want to be",  "ok on their side of the leps tracks
> but don't belong over here with our kind".  Are there whispers behind our
> backs at the meetings?
> "Well, he seems like a nice person, but he is a lepidopterist you know."
> "Oh, I didn't know that.  Good thing you told me I was about to invite him
> to the outing this weekend.  And we know we don't want those kind of
> people
> along.  And even if they don't bring a net you know they will just come
> back later and kill everything.  You know all they want is our women
> (butterflies).  They even smell different than us - must be the killing
> jars.  Too bad, he seemed so nice.  I'm glad you told me he is a
> lepidopterist and not one of us."
> Sorry, but I don't see this as just a simple matter of which terminology
> one wants to use in defining themselves.  As I said in my initial post,
> there is an underlying problem here -- and it did not exist at all 15-20
> years ago.   Bigotery _has_ moved into lepidoptery and it needs to go.
> Ron Gatrelle
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