Code of Practice
Collecting and netting
2 - Breeding in captivity
3 - Re-introductions
4 - Visiting butterfly sites
5 - Staying local
6 - Eco-tourism
butterflies has increased dramatically since the advent of
digital cameras and the ready availability of information on
the internet. This interest is beneficial to butterflies as it
highlights their importance and encourages the conservation of
their habitats. Unfortunately however there are a few adverse
side-effects. In particular the extra interest tends to place
a burden on sensitive sites, with consequent ill effect on the
butterfly populations. Accordingly this code has been
developed in consultation with several conservationists,
ecologists and members of the butterfly-watching public :
In tropical countries, collecting butterflies can aid
conservation. It confirms the presence of species that cannot
be identified in the field and provides proof via the capture
of voucher specimens. Such proof of the existence of rarities
and/or high biodiversity increases the conservation value of a
site significantly, and is required by governments when
considering the allocation of protected status to wildlife
Enormous numbers of Morphos, Birdwings and other large
colourful species are killed in the tropics for sale to the
souvenir trade. Many people consider this to be a deplorable
practice that destroys living creatures unnecessarily. It does
however provide a living for some of the poorest people in the
world and has little impact on butterfly populations so long
as their habitats are preserved.
Netting butterflies in mark / recapture projects helps
biologists to understand population dynamics and leads to an
increased understanding of conservation requirements. It is
also educationally valid for a field meeting leader to capture
butterflies temporarily to demonstrate identification features
to amateur naturalists, thereby increasing their knowledge and
their commitment to conservation.
European or North American butterflies is rarely necessary, as
with very few exceptions, all species can be identified alive,
and in most cases without netting, let alone killing them,
simply by using one of the many excellent field guides.
Amassing specimens like postage stamps, or killing /
purchasing them for wall displays is selfish, illegal and
There is little harm in capturing an occasional female
butterfly or moth for breeding. Rearing from eggs to adults
fosters a deeper interest and increases the likelihood that
the rearer will progress to take an interest in conservation.
Disposing of surplus livestock however creates major
conservation issues. The common practice of dumping surplus
livestock is highly irresponsible. Bred livestock is
genetically weaker, emerges out of sync with wild populations,
attracts high numbers of parasitoids and predators to the
release site, and causes havoc with recording schemes.
Butterflies are best studied and appreciated alive in their
natural environment. They can be studied through binoculars,
cameras, painting, drawing, or simply by keeping notes on
their behaviour. The pleasure of seeing a butterfly feeding at
a flower, or studying its courtship behaviour, is a million
times more satisfying than looking at a butterfly in a cage,
or a dead specimen in a display case.
If wildlife habitats were contiguous, butterflies could
naturally recolonise sites from which they had temporarily been
lost. Unfortunately, habitats are severely fragmented, and most
butterfly species are very sedentary in nature, so natural
recolonisations are rare.
Because of this, conservation experts sometimes capture females
from strong healthy populations, and transfer them to former
sites so that artificial recolonisation can occur.
Increasing fragmentation of habitats and isolation of colonies
means that re-introductions are set to become a vital
conservation tool in the future. Re-introductions must however
always be carried out professionally with a full understanding
of the effect on donor populations, and suitable long-term
habitat management in place at the receiving site, which must be
analysed in great detail to assess it's suitability. Transects,
mark and recapture schemes and continual monitoring of larval
foodplants and adult nectar sources must be in place, otherwise
the reasons for the success or failure of a re-introduction
cannot be understood.
Visiting butterfly sites
popular butterfly sites suffer from intense visitor pressure.
This causes disturbance to wildlife, damage to fragile habitats,
and diminishing the tranquillity of the countryside.
landowners are pro-conservation, and welcome the public on their
property, but are likely to be far less sympathetic if their
land is subjected to large numbers of visitors. Please therefore
help to alleviate the pressure by not visiting popular sites at
peak times. Visit mid-week if you can. Try to visit less
well-known sites instead. You often then have the place to
yourself with just the birds and butterflies for company.
Photographers should be aware of the unwitting damage they can
cause by trampling of foodplants and nectar sources, or
disturbing nesting birds. Keep to footpaths wherever possible,
and abide by requests to stay out of particular areas.
ambassador for butterfly conservation. Encourage people you meet
to take an interest in butterflies. Authors and webmasters
should be alert to the danger of publicising sensitive species
or fragile sites - several such sites in southern England have
been damaged by excessive visitor pressure as a result of
over-enthusiastic publicity. Learnaboutbutterflies.com
keeps the publication of sensitive information to a minimum. We
encourage people to explore the lesser known sites, particularly
in their local area. About 90 percent of the British butterfly
photographs on this website were taken within a 20 mile radius
of the webmaster's home !
Get to know your local habitats intimately. By concentrating on
local sites you can spend more time watching and photographing
butterflies. You also save fuel and travelling time. It's a good
idea to obtain 1:10000 scale maps covering a radius of 20 miles
of your home. Different types of habitat such as deciduous
woodland, coniferous woodland, grassland and heaths are clearly
indicated, as are public footpaths.
Most of us travel long distances to see rarities, but local
sites can reward you with many surprises - A few years ago
I regularly travelled 40 miles to a particular wood to see
Silver-washed Fritillaries and White Admirals. Then I suddenly
found myself without a car for a while and was forced to limit
myself to local sites. Surprisingly I discovered thriving
populations of both species in a previously unvisited woodland
just 3 miles from my home. Another local wood was found to have
Purple Emperors and several rare moths....
We only have one lifetime to
fulfil our dreams. Many of us have a deep longing to visit
rainforests and other distant habitats to watch butterflies,
birds and other animals. But, with holes in the ozone layer,
mounting carbon emissions and global warming threatening the
planet how can we justify the long-haul flights ?
Eco-tourism is a
powerful conservation tool. Places like the Danum Valley
rainforest in Borneo, the Manu biosphere reserve in Peru, the
cloudforests of Ecuador, the game parks of East Africa and the
tiger sanctuaries of India only survive because of the demand
by eco-tourism for their retention. Without the income and
employment generated by eco-tourism these places would simply
not exist any more. The precious little of the natural world
which remains would be cultivated or urbanised out of
"Eco-tourism makes the
forest more valuable standing, than it is when cut down"
Marina Silva, Brazilian