Ethics of Collecting

A Collection of Beautiful Butterflies

A Collection of Beautiful Butterflies

I grew up collecting insects.  Beetles, butterflies, moths, all were a part of my collection.  It is a pursuit that I still enjoy.  Today many individuals stand firmly if not radically  against the collection of insects and insist; nay they demand that we only observe them for the sake of observation, as in their opinion,  ”it is just not right to kill any creature so beautiful”.  I completely respect that.  I disagree with it, but I respect it.  My blog is open to anyone interested in Lepidoptera.  However if you are of the above opinion, you may find my website offensive.  As I have no desire to continue offending you, I would ask you to please leave now and do not revisit.  This site is not for you.  It is intended to be for those that can enjoy and learn from all phases of studying Lepidoptera which includes collecting.

There will be no debate on the topic of collection here.  There are many forums on the web that allow and may even encourage debate on the ethics of collecting.  This is not one of them.

I would hope I have something to offer everyone.  If you do not personally collect insects, I think you may still find some useful information. I have learned many things from sites where the webmasters are only observers and not collectors.  I would hope that observers will find some meaningful data here as well.

I believe that observing, rearing, imaging and limited collecting are all absolutely necessary for a balanced, scientific approach to the study of Lepidoptera and other insects.  No species has ever become threatened, endangered or extinct because they were collected for scientific purposes whether by institutions or avocational entomologists.

Please don’t waste your time or bandwidth in an attempt to make me believe otherwise.  It’s not going to happen. Let me give you an example: A pig has far more personality, charm and intelligence than any moth I have ever encountered, but I have absolutely no crisis of conscience consuming swine in whatever form they are served to me.

If you feel the need to chastise me for my behavior, likewise don’t waste your time.  My wife, ex-wives, mother, sisters and religious leaders are much better at it than you and they have found innumerable transgressions over which to rebuke me that are far more egregious than killing bugs.

You may agree or disagree, but please respect my beliefs as I do yours. 

Below is the Statement on Collecting from the Lepidoptera Society.  I agree with it totally and abide by it in my own collecting endeavors:


Statement on Collecting

Adopted by the Executive Council: 13 June 1996, Houston, Texas

The Lepidopterists’ Society affirms that collecting Lepidoptera is one of many legitimate activities enabling professional and avocational lepidopterists to further the scientifically sound and progressive study of Lepidoptera and education about Lepidoptera as well as encouraging interaction between professional and avocational lepidopterists.

The foregoing Statement of The Lepidopterists’ Society is accompanied by the following Collecting Guidelines. The Guidelines elucidate the manner in which collecting should be conducted. Practitioners are encouraged to adopt these Guidelines and to use the Guidelines for the instruction of others.

Collecting Guidelines


Our responsibility to assess and preserve natural resources, for the increase of knowledge, and for the maintenance of biological diversity in perpetuity, requires that lepidopterists examine the practices of collecting Lepidoptera for the purpose of governing their own activities.

To this end, the following guidelines are outlined, based on these premises:

0.1 Lepidoptera is one of the largest order of insects. Lepidopterans are an important component of biological diversity.

0.2 Lepidoptera are conspicuous and scientifically well known, thus they are frequently used as indicator groups for conservation programs.

0.3 The collection of Lepidoptera

0.31 is a means of introducing children and adults to awareness and study of their natural environment;

0.32 has an essential role in the elucidation of scientific information, both for its own sake and as a basis from which to develop rational means for protecting the environment, its resources, human health, and the world food supply;

0.33 is an educational activity which generally can be pursued in a manner not detrimental to the resource involved.


(consistent with the above):

1.1 To create a reference collection for study and appreciation.

1.2 To document regional diversity, frequency, and variability of species, and as voucher material for published records.

1.3 To document faunal representation in environments undergoing or threatened with alteration by humans or natural forces.

1.4 To participate in development of regional checklists and institutional reference collections.

1.5 To complement a planned research endeavor.

1.6 To aid in dissemination of educational information.

1.7 To augment understanding of taxonomic and ecologic relationships for medical and economic purposes.


2.1 Collecting adults or immature stages should be limited to sampling, not depleting, the population concerned. Numbers collected should be consistent with the purposes outlined in sections 1.1 through 1.7.

2.2 Where the extent and/or the fragility of the population is unknown, caution and restraint should be exercised.


3.1 All data should be recorded,and the data should be made available to appropriate interested parties.


4.1 Rearing to elucidate life histories and to obtain series of immature stages and adults is to be encouraged, provided that collection of the rearing stock is in keeping with these guidelines.

4.2 Reared material in excess of need should be released only in the region where it originated, and in suitable habitat.


5.1 Protection of the supporting habitat must be recognized as the sine qua non of protection of a species.

5.2 Collecting should be performed in a manner such as to minimize trampling or other damage to the habitat or to specific foodplants.

5.3 Property rights and sensibilities of others must be respected.

5.4 Collectors must comply with regulations relating to publicly controlled areas, to individual species, and to habitats.


6.1 All material should be preserved with all known data attached.

6.2 All material should be protected from physical damage and deterioration, e.g. light, molds, and museum pests.

6.3 Collections should be made available for examination by qualified researchers.

6.4 Collections or specimens, and their associated written and photographic records, should be willed or offered to the care of an appropriate scientific institution, if the collector lacks space or loses interest, or in anticipation of death.

6.5 Type specimens, especially holotype or allotype, should be deposited in appropriate scientific institutions.


7.1 Collecting should include permanently recorded field notes regarding habitat, conditions, and other pertinent information.

7.2 Recording of observations of behavior and of biological interactions should receive as high priority as collecting.

7.3 Photographic records, with full data, are to be encouraged.

7.4 Education of the public regarding collecting and conservation, as reciprocally beneficial activities, should be undertaken whenever possible.

7.5 All known data should be recorded with the specimens, e.g. date, location, collector, habitat, larval host plant data, and parentage of immatures, when known.


8.1 Collection of specimens for exchange or sale should be performed in accordance with these guidelines.

8.2 Rearing of specimens for exchange or sale should be from stock obtained in a manner consistent with these guidelines, and so documented.

8.3 Mass collecting of Lepidoptera for commercial purposes and collection of specimens for creation of saleable artifacts are not included among the purposes of the Society.


9.1 Collectors should comply with local, state or provincial, federal and national, and international laws and regulations that govern collecting and possession, commerce and exchange, import and export, and protection of species. Collectors should comply with additional local, state or provincial, federal and national, and international laws and regulations governing live material.


Dr. Vitor Becker

Dr. Lincoln P. Brower
Gainesville, Florida

Dr. Charles V. Covell, Jr.
Louisville Kentucky

Dr. Thomas Emmel
Gainesville Florida

Dr. J. Donald Lafontaine

Stephanie McKown
Camas, Washington

Eric H. Metzler, Chair
Columbus Ohio

Dr. Kauri Mikkola

Dr. Scott Miller
Honolulu Hawaii

Dr. Paul A. Opler
Fort Collins, Colorado

Dr. Kenelm W. Philip
Fairbanks Alaska

Dr. Jerry A. Powell
Berkeley California

Dr. Floyd and June Preston
Lawrence Kansas

Dr. Frederick W. Stehr
ex officio member
East Lansing Michigan

Dr. J. Benjamin Ziegler
Summit New Jersey