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“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!

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“‘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.

“Splendid Cloudless Giant Sulphur Butterflies” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Cloudless Giant Sulphur Butterfly, October 3, 2012, Georgia, USA

Cloudless Giant Sulphur Butterfly, October 3, 2012, Georgia, USA

Having lived in the Southeastern United States for the past 12 years, I have had the pleasure of viewing and observing many Cloudless Giant Sulphur Butterflies (Phoebis sennae) through the years.  These butterflies are similar to the smaller orange sulphurs, though they are significantly and noticeably larger in size.  Surprisingly, I also do not have any of these butterflies in my Lepidoptera collection, though I have them as part of my collection of butterfly photographs, a few of which may be viewed in this blog post. 

Cloudless Giant Sulphur Butterfly, October 3, 2012, Georgia, USA

Cloudless Giant Sulphur Butterfly, October 3, 2012, Georgia, USA

The photos of the Cloudless Giant Sulphurs that are included in this article are those that I took in my residential area in Georgia on October 3, 2012.  At the time that I took the photos, there were two beautiful Sulphurs resting and/or feeding near each other.  I was lucky enough to get a few photos of them both resting on the ground near each other before they flew off.

Cloudless Giant Sulphur Butterflies, October 3, 2012, Georgia, USA

Cloudless Giant Sulphur Butterflies, October 3, 2012, Georgia, USA

These Sulphurs are so graceful in their flight.  When they are not flying from flower to flower, they sail through the air or are at rest on the ground, on flowers, or on the leaves of trees, for examples.  Seeing the Sulphurs is a sure sign of summer and fall in Georgia.  Their pretty yellow coloring is cheery and uplifting on any day.

“How to Prepare Butterflies and Moths for Display the Economical Way” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Partial Display of Moths, Collected in North Carolina and Florida, 2006

Pictured above is a photo that represents half of one of my Lepidoptera display cases; I have 13 cases in all.  I have specificially included this photo here to reflect the display of butterflies and/or moths.  In this photo are moths that I collected from Florida and – mostly – North Carolina in 2006. 

Included in the photo of my display are twelve Regal Moths (also known as Royal Walnut Moths, Citheronia regalis), two Waved Sphinx Moths (Ceratomia undulosa), one Small-Eyed Sphinx Moth (Paonias myops), one Imperial Moth (Eacles imperialis), one Rosy Maple Moth (Dryocampa rubicunda), one Ornate Tiger Moth (also known as Virgo Moth, Apantesis ornata), one Black Witch (also known as Giant Noctuid, Ascalapha odorata), and two Io Moths (Automeris io).   I have well-preserved them by placing many moth balls at the bottom of the display case to ward off Lepidoptera-eating pests.  And, I replace the moth balls in each case about twice each year for that purpose.

Styrofoam Spreading Board with Pinned Regal Moths, July 2012

When I was a kid and my entomology collecting interest was in full swing, my dad made me an “official” Lepidoptera spreading board.  It was a very scientific “board” that was made of two boards of soft wood, however even the softest wood was not very soft.  The two boards were arranged so that they were almost immovable, making it difficult to spread the wings of a butterfly or moth, as well as challenging to maintain the spread.  That was the fancy spreading board.

Having come a long way in collecting during the past 35 years, I now use styrofoam boards to spread the wings of butterflies and moths – yes, styrofoam boards!  And, let me say, they are absolutely the best type of spreading board one can get for the ease and pliability of use, as well as the economical cost. 

For anyone who is a beginning collector, I highly recommend the use of styrofoam boards for Lepidoptera wing-spreading as the one and only choice.  The best type of styrofoam board is similar to that pictured above, being about 12″x12″x2″.  This is because one can use scissors to carve out spaces on the styrofoam’s surface in which to place the pinned specimens.  Also, a thick board serves as protection from getting poked by the pins, since they don’t go all the way through the bottom of the board.

Also notice at the bottom, right-hand corner of the spreading board in the above-photo that there are several specialty mounting pins.  These are pins that one can purchase from an insect, entomology, or science-related company.  They come in various strengths and sizes, and are specially-coated to prevent them from rusting.  Do not use common, everyday metal pins on which to preserve insect specimens of any kind because they do rust over a period of time.

In the photo of the spreading board are two Regal moths that I collected recently from North Carolina on July 1, 2012.  Each moth is pinned using a specialty pin, and wings have been spread and allowed to dry in place for 2.5 weeks.  I have used strips of tissue paper, pinned into place, to maintain the “spread” of the moth’s wings. 

Regal Moth with Wings Setting in Preparation for Display, July 2012

 A collector should allow a butterfly’s or moth’s wings to dry for at least two weeks or more to ensure hardening, and to prevent the wings from prematurely drooping due to not having completely hardened into place.  Sometimes, it is challenging to be patient and wait several days for the butterfly’s or moth’s wings to dry, but doing so is well-worth the wait and prevents the problematic wing-sag from occurring. 

Regal Moths, North Carolina, USA, July 1, 2012

And, there you have it – see the above photo within this article to observe how beautifully these Regal Moth specimens have turned out for display!  The wings of these specimens are not perfectly-placed and have minor areas of damage, however they will be just fine for my collection!

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

My Son with Tomato Hornworm Crawling on his Shirt, Georgia, USA, Summer 2011

Manduca inquemaculata, or the tomato hornworm, is a large green caterpillar, the larvae of sphinx or hawk moths.  Tomato hornworms eat the foliage of tomato or tobacco plants, and are sometimes confused with tobacco hornworms since they look very similar to each other. 

During the summer of 2011, there were several tomato hornworms that fed on the foliage of our tomato plants in Georgia.  We purposely did not put any form of insecticides or insect powders on the tomato plants, just so the tomato hornworms would have a nice feast.  By the end of the summer, there were at least five tomato hornworms feasting on our tomato plants.  I also had the pleasure of taking two of them for “Show and Tell” in my son’s second grade class at his school in August 2011, later releasing them back onto the garden tomato plants.

One evening, shortly after ceasing to see the tomato hornworm larvae anymore, and assuming they had pupated, I happened to witness a large female praying mantis feeding on a tomato hornworm sphinx moth that she had caught.  She had adeptly caught the moth while it was feeding on the nectar of a flower, holding it with her “praying” front legs.  When she had finished eating it, she left only the wings that settled on the ground.

Pictured above is a photo of my son with one of the tomato hornworm “pets” that we lovingly observed, cared for, and “adopted” during the summer of 2011.  I had placed the caterpillar on his shirt, and it felt ticklish to him as it crawled upward on his clothing.  We had great fun with our tomato hornworm caterpillars last summer!

Tomato Hornworm Moth in my Lepidoptera Collection, near Statesville, North Carolina, Summer 2005

Pictured above is a tomato hornworm moth from my own personal Lepidoptera collection.  It is one that I caught near Statesville, North Carolina in the summer of 2005.  It is impressive and beautiful with it’s vivid coloring and bright orange body spots.

“Luna Moth Delight” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Luna Moth Beneath Leaf Camouflage, Georgia, USA, Summer 2010

Throughout my life, I have had the great pleasure of seeing, observing, photographing, and even collecting several Luna Moths. Luna Moths, or Actias luna, are giant silkworm moths that belong to the family, Saturniidae.  Their wingspan is generally about 4.5″ in length, so they are very large, appearing as kites in flight.

These moths are so amazing and beautiful…in their coloring and wing structure.  With their coloring reminiscent of evening moonlight – the aura of light surrounding the moon – they get their name, Luna, which means “moon.”  And, the tails on the hind wings of these fabulous delights are very long, flowing, and beautiful, as well! 

In the picture above that I photographed in the summer of 2010, my mom located this Luna Moth, roosting in a tree in the backyard.  She cut the branch of the tree – with the Luna Moth still resting on it – and brought it in the house for all to enjoy.  We observed and enjoyed it’s awesome beauty, and then, released it that night when it became active, after flying about inside the enclosed porch.

Welcome to Lepidoptera Lovers! By Michele Babcock-Nice

Buckeye Butterfly, Georgia, USA, 2010

This blog is focused toward anyone who enjoys Lepidoptera – butterflies and moths!  This blog is also associated with the LinkedIn group, “Lepidoptera Lovers.”  Therefore, Lepidoptera Lovers is for all those who enjoy communicating, sharing information, becoming more educated, increasing their appreciation, and networking about Lepidoptera!  All Lepidoptera lovers are welcome.

There are entomology-related group(s) in LinkedIn (as of May 2012), though they are not specific to Lepidoptera – my area of love and interest in insects.  There are also two other current and specific Lepidoptera-related and/or butterfly-related groups in LinkedIn (as of May 2012), though their activity is low.

Gulf Fritillary, Georgia, USA, 2010

“Lepidoptera Lovers” on WordPress aims at creating, encouraging, promoting, and providing  educational, communicative, and interactive blog posts between people who love and/or enjoy butterflies and moths.  Issues about eggs, caterpillars, chrysallises, and and pupae are also acceptable for posting, discussion, communication, and networking, as they relate to butterflies and moths.

I have been a collector of insects – mostly butterflies and moths – since I was about 7 or 8 years old.  As I have gotten older, I have also become a Lepidoptera photographer.  Photos posted in this “Lepidoptera Lovers” blog, therefore, are those that I took, except only where specifically referenced and identified with the source.  Rather than capture butterflies and moths, physically, I now mostly capture them in photographs! 

Tiger Swallowtail on Butterfly Bush, Georgia, USA, 2010

I am fascinated by the beauty and movement of these beautiful creatures – butterflies and moths.  They bring so much beauty to our world.  They are many of God’s wondrous miracles, adding to the enjoyable beauty of our lives. 

Thank you for your interest, and welcome to my blog!