What is a lepidopterist

Mark Walker MWalker at gensym.com
Wed Jan 30 21:56:23 EST 2002

Well, email is not a very clear medium.

My definition is not at all based on the dichotomy being suggested by Rudy.
The reason this dichotomy is assumed in my definition, is because I used the
word "science".  Perhaps another dichotomy surrounds the stigma held by a
wrong definition for "science".  You see, I don't consider science as being
an activity limited to the educated.  Science is the study of the world.
Anybody can do it, and I would suggest that all are involved in it during
one part of their life.  As I mentioned, it is impossible to grow lemons or
raise cattle without becoming scientific about it.  On the other hand, why
should the term "lepidopterist" require application whenever butterflies or
moths are involved?  If you are serious about the study of butterflies and
moths at any level, then I suspect you are indeed a lepidopterist.  It's not
a title that has to be earned, nor is it a title that requires peer review.
But it simply doesn't apply to everyone that has an enthusiasm for
butterflies.  I don't believe the word was intended to have this wide an
application - it's as simple as that.  It's not an issue of "us" and "them".
It's just category X vs. Y.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Anne Kilmer [mailto:viceroy at GATE.NET]
> Sent: Tuesday, January 29, 2002 1:16 PM
> To: rbenavid at hotmail.com
> Cc: leps-l at lists.yale.edu
> Subject: Re: What is a lepidopterist
> Rudy Benavides wrote:
> > Mark Walker <MWalker at gensym.com> wrote:
> > 
> >> Likewise, the
> >> term "lepidopterist" is better reserved for those with a 
> strong link to
> >> scientific activities - regardless of any professional affiliation.
> > 
> > 
> This sounds like the imagined dichotomy between the 
> scientists and the poets, which has always struck me as so silly.
> It's almost as silly as the war between the boys and the girls, which 
> some of us have grown out of. A lepidopterist may be interested in 
> behavior, as well as identification; may approach by way of 
> field work 
> or lab work; may have started out by climbing trees until, like the 
> orangutan, we got too heavy for that and were, sadly, earthbound.
> A lepidopterist may be four years old, or eighty. This may be his 
> profession, or avocation, or addiction.
> I always liked the pejorative phrase "bug-hunters" as used in 
> Kipling's 
> "Stalky and Co." I was one of those, in health. Now I have a little 
> trouble even getting under a barbed-wire fence. I'm grateful 
> when folks 
> bring back the elusive butterfly, netted, for me to have a good look.
> I don't see any need for a division between "watchers" and 
> "whateverelse". Heck, some of my best friends are 
> taxonomists, although 
> I would just as soon they hadn't just switched to Cyclargus from 
> Hemiargus for the Miami Blue. I'm with them all the way and they're 
> absolutely right, and I wouldn't dream of taking away 
> Vladimir Nabokov's 
> nice butterfly (Nabokov, by the way, was an excellent poet) 
> but "We are 
> going to restore this little butterfly, which by the way you are all 
> calling the wrong name" seems an ungracious way to start off. ;-)
> And, in fact, it's better to be right, now, and avoid the rush.
> It is rather hard to do taxonomy really well and have the bug 
> walk away 
> afterwards. If you're trying to learn difficult bugs, photos 
> don't help.
> I'd love to see the school children handling a study block, 
> lucite, with 
> four different blue butterflies in it, actually turning it over and 
> examining upper and undersides. (In Florida, Riker mounts are a joke.)
> After that, they would have less trouble distinguishing these 
> confusing 
> bugs.
> But anyway, none of that can happen without dead bugs, and so it goes.
> Bottom line: if you're here, of course you're a 
> lepidopterist. If you're 
> a pusher, spreading this addiction among innocent children, 
> more power 
> to you.
> See you in the Keys.
> Anne Kilmer
> Steering Committee
> Miami Blue Butterfly Restoration Project
> Task Force Director
> Miami Blue Butterfly Recovery Team
> South Florida
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