by Ranger Steve Mueller
As a child I collected butterflies in fallow farm fields near my home. I recall rearing large numbers of mourning cloaks and tent caterpillars. The joy of the metamorphosis was miraculous and butterflies were released to “live and be happy”. When I collected adults, I recall how difficult it was to kill such splendid creatures in my killing jar. Collecting allowed me to study details that were otherwise not possible. More than once I released specimens too near death to ever recover completely. That may have been improper treatment for those poor individuals but a child has a unique view and understanding of life.
All too rapidly the fallow farm fields became housing developments and that angered and disappointed me. The loss of habitat was crucial in my development as a lepidopterist. As a seven year old, I recognized human population expansion was squeezing other life off the planet and by age 19 I decided to limit my own family to no more than two children. I developed understanding and reasons for collecting and studying these wonderful creatures whose presence declined proportionally with development and human population growth.
In addition to observing life histories, my efforts to collect, kill, and classify intensified so I could learn ways to sustain species and life. I gradually metamorphosed in my understanding for taking the delightful insects from nature. It was essential to study details that help species survive. The research led me to discover distribution of species not known to live in Michigan and Utah. Scientific collecting allowed me to document hundreds of new County records where species were not known to live. Collecting even resulted in the discovery of a new species called the Brilliant Virgin Tiger Moth (Grammia brillians) at my Bryce Canyon National Park research site.
My three-year-old daughter, Jenny Jo, collected with me when young and clearly instructed me to release specimens from the net so they could “live and be happy”. Thus I saw a new generation of lepidopterist beginning her metamorphosis. I thought her development and collecting efforts might help butterflies “live and be happy”. Now grown, her efforts do not include study of butterflies but she developed a love for life and joy for nature’s biodiversity. She lives conservatively to sustain life on Earth for all species.
Jenny helped me again see the miraculous nature of butterfly existence that a child sees. A three-year-old renewed my efforts to help butterflies “live and be happy” – a thought sometimes difficult for the adult perspective but one we should never lose.
Live a life that conserves nature niches.
Adapted from July 1983 article published in the Lepidopterists’ Society News
Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at firstname.lastname@example.org Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433. 616-696-1753.