The Art of Butterfly Collecting

Butterfly collecting used to be a popular hobby until the mid / late 20th century. Fortunately, the use of modern cameras and good quality books or social media, means there is no need to collect butterflies in order to record them. Some butterflies are also fully or partially protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 and it is illegal to collect these species.

Many museums have butterfly collections collected before any restrictions were in place. Collections with provenance data can provide evidence of the species living in a habitat or place along with an associated date. In addition to being a biological record, insect collections are being used for DNA analysis ensuring that the best genetic match is used for any reintroduction programmes.

This drawer of butterflies (Red Admirals, Painted Ladies, Small Tortoiseshells and Peacocks) is from the S Morris Collection. The 49 species of butterflies were collected in the early 20th century from West Sussex.