Collecting butterflies

Collecting butterflies
Highlights

How to Use a Butterfly Net When trying to capture a butterfly with a net, move slowly until you are in range Position the net under the insect, then swing your net upward and turn the handle so that the net flips over and the captured insect cannot escape

Butterflies have fascinated people for centuries! Some of the oldest butterfly collections in museums today have specimens from the 1700s – including species that are now extinct. (A note of caution: many species of butterflies have plentiful populations, but make sure you don’t collect too many of the same species or kill rare ones without considering first.) To start your own collection of these beautifulLepidoptera (the insect order that butterflies and moths belong to), you’ll need some basic collecting equipment. A sturdy butterfly net is essential, and a spreading board, insect pins, and a display case are helpful tools for making a quality collection.

How to Use a Butterfly Net: When trying to capture a butterfly with a net, move slowly until you are in range. Position the net under the insect, then swing your net upward and turn the handle so that the net flips over and the captured insect cannot escape. If you bring the net over the insect and down to the ground, raise the end of it so that the insect can fly to the closed top, then stick a container under the net and carefully move your butterfly down into it.

Identifying Butterflies & Moths: This step can come after you’ve brought the specimen home, but often it’s helpful to identify it right away, so you can remember where you found it. A field guide like the Butterflies & Moths Golden Guide can help you identify many common species, or you can try an Audubon guide with color photos of 600 species.

Using a guide, find out what type of plant the caterpillar of that species eats, then check any of those plants in the area for tiny butterfly eggs on the underside of the leaves. (And come back later to see the caterpillars!) If you decide to identify your captures when you get home, make a note of where you found each one and what plant or flower it was feeding on. The first step of the identification process is to determine whether your capture is a butterfly or a moth, the two groups of Lepidoptera.

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