To kill or not to kill: Butterflying during the “insect apocalypse”

Read the full story at Vox.

For centuries, butterfly collectors — also known as lepidopterists — have pursued their quarries with a standard set of equipment: vials of alcohol, cyanide bricks, metal pins, jars, and the iconic butterfly net. These insect enthusiasts meticulously catalog each butterfly specimen in the name of science (and, occasionally, fun). Their pinned prizes make up the bulk of museum butterfly collections to this day.

As a former entomology student, I am intimately familiar with catching butterflies. I have maintained my own collection for nearly a decade, donating extra specimens to local science museums. But despite years of experience, the metal pins and poison jars have always made me slightly queasy. Turns out, I’m not alone.

The last 30 years have seen the rise of butterflying, a spiritual sibling to bird watching that involves identifying and photographing the insects rather than capturing them. Some of its staunchly anti-net advocates liken capturing, killing, and pinning butterflies to trophy hunting, and accuse collectors of accelerating environmental collapse.

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