Butterfly Obsession

Photo by Jeffrey Zablow

I learn something new every day working here at the library.  My latest knowledge accumulation has to do with butterflies. I’ve always enjoyed watching a butterfly flit around the flowers and bushes in my yard and visiting the Butterfly Room at Phipps Conservatory,  but I never knew until recently that some people are fanatical about butterflies. I’m talking mortgage-your-home-and-lose-your-family obsessed with the collection of rare species of butterflies. Now, unfortunately the fact that there are people out there who are so enamored with the accrual of these colorful creatures has led to a booming black market business in the capturing, smuggling, and selling of butterflies.

My familiarity with the butterfly black market came about when finally getting to one of the books in my pile, Winged Obsession: The Pursuit of the World’s Most Notorious Butterfly Smuggler by Jessica Speart.  As I am reading, I have to remind myself that this book is non-fiction. It reads like a good suspense/thriller/crime novel. The protagonists, although completely real, are over the top characters, almost comical in their stereotypical behavior.

Photo of Jeffrey Zablow. Courtesy of Jeffrey Zablow.

Then I discovered a series of programs about butterflies. Winged Beauties: The Art and Science ofButterflies is being presented by Jeffrey Zablow, a local biologist and butterfly enthusiast at four neighborhood libraries this summer. Luckily for our winged friends, Jeff only captures butterflies on film. In addition to a spectacular show of butterfly photographs, you’ll also receive instruction on using field guides for your own butterfly sightings and discover which plants will bring these enchanting creatures to your gardens. More information on Jeff’s passion is available on his web site.Of course, all of this Lepidoptera serendipity led me to wonder what else was available at the library to feed those butterfly enthusiasts. Surprise, surprise—it’s a lot.  There are books if your family would like to raise butterflies. There are guides to understanding the meaning of the colors and patterns of butterflies. There’s a DVD to learn about butterflies and moths. There are guides for identifying those who enter your backyard.  Plus, it turns out the book I’m reading is not the only current book on the dark side of butterfly collecting.

If you have a healthy, or unhealthy (I won’t judge), love for butterflies be sure to visit your local library to check out what’s available to sustain your passion.

-Melissa M.


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4 responses to “Butterfly Obsession

  1. ZZMike

    As an aside, Nabokov was a lepidopterist. He made more than a few contributions to the scientific literature (before he turned to writing). I remember a scene early on in “Pnin” where there’s a lot of butterflies.

  2. For a closer look at the amazing patterns found in butterfly wings, take a look at the children’s picture book, The Butterfly Alphabet by Kjell Sandved, retired lecturer and photographer for the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. Or visit his website http://www.butterflyalphabet.com/main/index.php

  3. Are you obsessed with Butterflies? Help Jeff Zablow identify the mysterious Skipper butterfly here: http://wingedbeauty.com/2012/06/11/challenge-skipper/

  4. Pingback: This Thank-You is Overdue… | Eleventh Stack

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