Butterflies are beautiful insects that have been memorialized in poetry and paintings for thousands of years. For some collectors, butterflies are also something to be saved and placed on walls. They may want to showcase unique species or fill their walls with an array of different types of butterflies. Other collectors look for unique, unnamed species to discover. Depending on the butterfly collector, there are a variety of reasons why these insects are kept.
Documenting Different Species
At museums across the world, butterflies are carefully put into boxes to document each species. Insects are the most diverse part of the animal kingdom, and there are numerous types of butterflies. This insect can live almost anywhere that has native plants. For the most part, these species only appear for a few weeks each year before they disappear. During this time, collectors use butterfly nets to capture different species and find new species.
Recently, butterfly collectors found an entirely new species of the swallowtail butterfly. In the southeastern United States, a species known as the Intricate Satyr was discovered in 2013. Examples like these are constant reminders of the importance of collecting and analyzing butterflies.
Collecting Butterflies for Conservation
As more animal species become extinct, genetic data is used to track endangered species. Since butterflies are often too small to collect DNA and release, they must be captured and killed before their DNA can be extracted. One of North America’s rarest butterflies is only found in a small part of North Carolina. Known as the Crystal Skipper, this species is collected to track the three distinct DNA sequences that are found among the group. With this information, scientists can create targeted measures for preventing the Crystal Skipper’s extinction.
Showcasing New Finds
When someone discovers a new species, they are able to give it a name before it is formally classified. For the collectors who discover a new butterfly species, one of the only ways to prove their discovery is to collect a specimen. Afterward, the butterfly can be sent to a specialist or a museum to have it properly identified. Currently, a large percentage of butterflies have never been formally classified, so collectors are in a race to find the next butterfly species.
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