Flora and fauna of the Athens County area, and occasionally habitats outside Ohio. Subject matter will consist of both interpretive material and taxonomic issues in plant and animal identification.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Ohio Lepidopterists

In 1977-78 Eric Metzler and about a dozen other people gathered to discuss the formation of a group where Butterfly and Moth enthusiasts could meet and share their interest in Lepidoptera. From that the Ohio Lepidopterists were born. I joined that first year, and have been a life long member ever since. One of the first big projects was to gather data on all the Lepidoptera known from Ohio. This involved examining collections from throughout the state and museums nationwide. Those surveys continue today.

Over the years that data has provided many publications by the membership. Support for these has been provided by the Ohio Biological Survey and the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

The Ohio Lepidopterists maintain a reference collection where people can come to help identify their specimens. The collection is housed with the insects at Ohio State University in the Museum of Biological Diversity in Columbus. We also hold and annual I.D. day each December where members help each other with their UFO's.

Using a collection is one thing, but having a room full of people is another. Every mid January we hold our annual meeting. A virtual who's who of experts from all over come to share and compare data from Ohio and other states. Of course we also share war stories about "the one that got away".

It's nice having a field guide to Butterflies available, but it's another ball game for those of us who collect the difficult looking micro moths. Having people separate your small stuff into the proper species is simply priceless.

After 30 some years many of the original members are getting up there in age. Plus many have since relocated to other states across the country. It's good to see the younger generation continuing to show interest in Butterflies and Moths.

These are just incredible. Our interests are not restricted to Ohio. Here a student from Purdue is studying the mimicry patterns of Heliconid Butterflies in tropical forests.

There is free time in the morning before the speakers present their programs. While many of us are working in the back room, others are viewing slide shows to test their recognition skills.

Not everyone in the group are 'collectors'. Many members just enjoy watching butterflies and other wildlife. In the 90's butterfly gardening was all the rave. Lots of people got into planting gardens with attractive flowers for nectaring butterflies, as well as food plants for their caterpillars. In the past decade, with the advent of digital cameras, many members enjoy photography and the opportunities a macro lens can provide. Proper identification of photographs has clearly added to our knowledge of Lepidoptera distribution and abundance.

Another very popular activity members participate in are the many butterfly monitoring projects popping up at nature centers and metro parks. This is part of the citizen science program nationwide where hobbyists and non professionals can participate in gathering scientific data on animal populations. Our featured speaker from Illinois talked about setting up permanent transects and how to observe butterflies from year to year. Bird watchers have been doing this for some time now with the feeder watch program. That subject in particular will be discussed at the upcoming Natural History Conference in February.

The best part of any meeting has to be the social networking. I don't get to see some of these people more than once a year. I suspect the weather probably kept a number of others away this time. I may have missed some, but I do know folks from Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Indiana made it to this years meeting.

A few years ago, Dave Wagner published an excellent field guide to caterpillars. I just found out he has put out yet another one. A guide to Owlet Moths or the Noctuids, the largest family of moths in the country. Here's a member showing me his copy. This is the first I've seen it. Yet another book to add to my purchase list.

Whether you like observing, monitoring, photographing, or collecting Butterflies and Moths, everyone is welcome to join the Ohio Lepidopterists. Visit our website to learn more.

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