Archive | July 2013

“Three Decades of Collecting Lepidoptera” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Original Lepidoptera Display from my Second Year in 4-H, 1984; These Specimens are Between 29-31 Years Old.

Original Lepidoptera Display from my Second Year in 4-H, 1984; These Specimens are Between 29-31 Years Old (The Cecropia Moths, I Raised from Eggs!)

For me, insect collecting was an interest and recreational hobby that began when I was about 7 or 8 years old.  Living next to an open field, as well as a corn field and wooded area across the street from my home, was prime territory for butterfly hunting.  It also helped that my mom had a garden and many flowers that always attracted butterflies and bugs. 

Display Case of Sphinx and Silk Moths, Mostly Caught in North Carolina

Display Case of Sphinx and Silk Moths, Mostly Caught in North Carolina

My parents bought me books about butterflies and moths, and in one of those is where I read that people could actually collect and display these wonderful natural treasures.  My dad was supportive of my hobby by making a wing spreading board for me, and eventually, beautiful display cases.  When I started out in that first year, though, I pinned my butterflies and other insects with steel pins; those rusted very quickly.  Also, I pinned my finds in an empty shoebox at my mom’s suggestion, and found out that my treasures did not last.  The advent of my use of actual display cases, made to the specifications required by 4-H, was and still is a wonderful way of preserving and displaying my collection.

Tropical and Exotic Butterflies and Moths, Purchased from Ianni, Along with Some Domestic Specimens

Tropical and Exotic Butterflies and Moths, Purchased from Ianni, Along with Some Domestic Specimens

Some neighbors who were aware of my insect collecting knew a 4-H leader near my hometown who was also a Lepidoptera collector.  Her name was Mrs. Patricia Lawton of North Collins, New York.  Under her tutelage and guidance, Pat nurtured and encouraged my passion for insect – and particularly, Lepidoptera – collecting.  She taught me how to best-preserve my specimens, how to best spread their wings and display them, and she informed me about the proper pins to use.  For the next two years, my collections were displayed at and won awards at the county (Erie) and state (New York) fairs. 

Imperial, Regal, Luna, Sphinx, and Other Silk Moths from North Carolina; and Black Witch from Florida

Imperial, Regal, Luna, Sphinx, and Other Silk Moths from North Carolina; and Black Witch from Florida

Once I turned 15, my interests transformed into becoming more involved in high school clubs, academics, sports, music, theater, language, and writing.  For many years – about 15 – I shelved my passion for collecting and displaying butterflies and moths.  When I came back around to it at about age 30, I decided to go further in my collecting pursuits and look to the Internet for purchasing tropical and exotic butterflies and moths.  The Internet is where I located Ianni Butterfly Enterprises, located out of Ohio, that sells Lepidoptera. 

Blue Morphos and Other Tropical and Exotic Butterflies, Mostly Purchased from Ianni

Blue Morphos and Other Tropical and Exotic Butterflies, Mostly Purchased from Ianni

So, more than one decade ago, I began investing in expanding and enriching my Lepidoptera collection by adding dozens of tropical and exotic butterflies and moths to it, mostly purchased from Ianni Butterfly Enterprises.  This company is an excellent and reliable carrier, and I highly recommend them for outstanding, top quality specimens.

Tropical and Exotic Butterflies, All Purchased from Ianni

Tropical and Exotic Butterflies, All Purchased from Ianni

After about five years of adding to and investing into expanding my Lepidoptera collection, I decided that the expense had become too much, that I was getting carried away by it, and there were other priorities and responsibilities into which to put my money, most particularly my son.  Also at that time, I began to view collecting with a very different perspective.  I reflected on all of the butterflies and moths that were being sold for a profit, and recalled how much more I enjoy observing them as living creatures.  Certainly, looking at them and enjoying them in display cases is lovely, but viewing them in full living color, flying about with zestful energy became much more appealing to me. 

More Tropical and Exotic Butterflies and Moths, All Purchased from Ianni

More Tropical and Exotic Butterflies and Moths, Nearly All Purchased from Ianni

Therefore, I resolved to stop actively collecting butterflies and moths about five years ago.  Throughout the past 30 years, I have collected insects, including Lepidoptera, as my collection shows.  However, with my increasing age – and hopefully, wisdom, as well – I decided that it was more important that the butterflies and moths should live their lives without my catching them for my collection.  Instead of continuing to actively collect Lepidoptera, I have turned to photographing butterflies and moths.  Of course, if I happen upon an injured or deceased butterfly or moth, and it is in a condition that I believe is worth preserving, I make it part of my collection.  Otherwise, and unless it is a specimen that I do not have in my collection, I do my best to observe and enjoy these lovely creatures in life rather than in death.

Tropical and Exotic Butterflies, Mostly Purchased from Ianni; and Domestic Butterflies and Moths

Tropical and Exotic Butterflies, Mostly Purchased from Ianni; and Domestic Butterflies and Moths

The photographs in this blog post are of the majority of my Lepidoptera collection, spanning more than three decades of collecting.  The oldest butterflies and moths in my collection are at least 31 years old, with my having caught and displayed them as an independent 4-H member. 

A Display Case of Specimens, Many of a Somewhat Lesser Quality

A Display Case of Specimens, Many of a Somewhat Lesser Quality

All of my Lepidoptera display cases were made for me by my dad, who is a very talented craftsman.  The cases are made of wood, glass, and styrofoam; and are of excellent quality.  Once or twice each year, I take the time to do maintenance on my collection by replacing the moth balls (notice the folded envelopes inside the display cases – these contain moth balls) in order to deter the bugs from infesting and eating my prizes. 

In the past when I was much less experienced with maintaining my collection, I made the mistake of not placing moth balls inside the cases, and I have lost entire cases of Lepidoptera to bugs that completely disintegrated my treasures into dust.  When one sees this occurrence, one can really understand the phrase, “Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust.” 

Entomology Display Case, Holding Some Butterflies and Moths; Most Insects are Between 30-35 Years Old

Entomology Display Case, Holding Some Butterflies and Moths; Most Insects are Between 30-35 Years Old

Just last year, there were some tiny buggers that got into one of my display cases that housed many of my expensive tropical and exotic Lepidoptera.  Unfortunately, many of them were not salvageable, and I lost about one dozen or so to them.  This year, I did not lose any of my collection to the dust-creating bugs.  Thankfully, the moth balls did their job in keeping away the pests, but these crystalline chemicals do lost their potency after awhile and must be replaced in order to keep them away.

This is my collection.  These are my prized treasures.  This is my hobby about which I am most passionate.  I hope you have enjoyed viewing my collection!

“The Abundant Skippers” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Fiery Skipper, Georgia, July 2013

Fiery Skipper, Georgia, July 2013

In the past week, Middle Georgia has seen mostly sunny weather, bringing about an abundance of Skipper butterflies.  The most of any type of butterfly that I have observed in my area all summer are the Skippers. 

Fiery Skipper, Georgia, July 2013

Fiery Skipper, Georgia, July 2013

On the butterfly bushes and flowers, the Fiery Skippers (Hylephila phyleus), Clouded Skippers (Lerema accius), and Silver-spotted Skippers (Epargyreus clarus) are enjoying as much nectar from the flowers as they can take in. 

Clouded Skipper, Georgia, July 2013

Clouded Skipper, Georgia, July 2013

Previously, I had not posted any photos of Skippers on this blog because the butterflies are small and are a challenge to get into focus on my camera.  Indeed, I have taken many more photos that are blurry and unclear than those that are worthy of publishing. 

Clouded Skipper, Georgia, July 2013

Clouded Skipper, Georgia, July 2013

Indeed, it has been enjoyable to view and observe the Skippers flittering about.  They are generally dainty and cute butterflies.  They mostly have the flowers to themselves this summer, but for sharing them with bumblebees and the very few honeybees that are around if one is lucky to spot them. 

Silver-spotted Skipper, Georgia, July 2013

Silver-spotted Skipper, Georgia, July 2013

Keep your eyes open for these quick orange and/or brown butterflies the next time you are outside near your flowers.  They are so small that they are easy to miss.  Just look for the small orange or brown butterflies that are about the diameter of a dime, and you’ll see them!

Silver-spotted Skipper, Georgia, July 2013

Silver-spotted Skipper, Georgia, July 2013

The Silver-spotted Skippers are larger than the other two types, about the diameter of a quarter.  However, they are also fast-fliers and are easy to miss unless you look carefully.

“‘Flighty’ Cabbage Butterfly” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Cabbage White Butterfly on Buddleja - Butterfly Bush, Snellville, Georgia, July 15, 2013

Cabbage White Butterfly on Buddleja – Butterfly Bush, Snellville, Georgia, July 15, 2013

As a young girl, the Cabbage White Butterfly (Pieris rapae) – or Cabbage Butterfly, as I call it – was one of the first to catch my attention.  For many years, there was a nice field right next to my family’s home and property, and the Cabbages and Sulphurs were always those that I often observed flying along the high grass, seeking flowers for nectar-feeding.  It was the Cabbages and Sulphurs that eventually enticed me into following, chasing, catching, collecting, mounting, displaying, and presenting Lepidoptera.  To observers, they seem to be more often in flight than grounded. 

Still today, the Cabbage Butterflies are those to which I take quick notice since they are nearly all white, flying against a mostly green natural backdrop.  One must admit that it is difficult not to notice a Cabbage Butterfly.  Certainly, they are nothing special; they are very plain butterflies and are mostly all white in color.  They do not have colorful patterns or designs.  They do not have flashy, iridescent colors that reflect the sunlight.  And, while their flight is of what I would consider average speed for a butterfly, they are not fast, nor slow-fliers.  The only thing that really makes these butterflies stand out at all is that they are white.

Cabbage White Butterfly on Buddleja - Butterfly Bush, Snellville, Georgia, July 15, 2013

Cabbage White Butterfly on Buddleja – Butterfly Bush, Snellville, Georgia, July 15, 2013

Because Cabbage Whites are so common in the United States, it is easy to take them for granted, particularly even as a Lepidopterist or other entomologist.  Cabbage Butterflies are widely considered pest to many garden plants, including cabbage plants.  Yet, even with the many chemicals and pesticides that farmers and others place on their crops, these butterflies have found a way to survive. 

And, this brings to mind how – even though they are common and even though they may be taken for granted – they have a wonderful, plain beauty.  Their simple color and plain appearance can be a reminder for us of purity and simply beauty, something that the more grand and colorful butterflies lack.  Therefore, this must also remind us that there is a reason for everything and a place for everything in the world, no matter how fancy or how plain.  There is beauty in everything, including the common, white Cabbage Butterfly.

“Healthy Tomato Hornworm Caterpillar” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Tomato Hornworm Caterpillar Feasting on Tomato Plant, Snellville, Georgia, July 2013

Tomato Hornworm Caterpillar Feasting on Tomato Plant, Snellville, Georgia, July 2013

My mom’s garden is the perfect place for tomato hornworm caterpillars to live, grow, and develop.  With her dozen six-foot high tomato plants, there have been two tomato hornworm caterpillars feasting on the tender top leaves of two of the giant plants.  While the great amount of rain and lack of sunshine we have had this summer in middle Georgia has slowed the ripening of the tomatoes, it has not slowed the growth of the caterpillars! 

Our resident male cardinal also appears to be happy about the habitation of the tomato hornworm caterpillars in my mom’s garden because he seems to have evicted one of them, having it end up in his stomach!  Normally, my mom would view these caterpillars as pests to her garden, though through being educated by me in Lepidoptera and entomology, she now allows them to eat her garden plants.  We hope that the lone surviving adult caterpillar will make it through metamorphosis and become a lovely tomato hornworm moth.