Some Thoughts on Butterfly Nets
I got my very first butterfly net from the Easter Bunny when I was 6. With the impending Easter holiday, and my recent gift of a net to my niece for her fourth birthday, I find myself thinking about butterfly nets. My first net came with a little yellow plastic cage for keeping butterflies in. I remember Chilmark Girl and I catching a cabbage white in our next door neighbor's back yard and putting it in the cage. It got out in less than 10 seconds. We never used the cage again, but the net (or one of its many successors) was a frequent companion throughout childhood.
I think that a net is a great gift for a child, and offer the following butterfly net gift giving guide for consideration:
1. Don't buy a toy. A real butterfly net is not terribly expensive (currently less than $15), and much more durable and useful than something that you can get in a toy store. This is even more true today than when I was a kid. I recently saw a toy net in which the wire rim for the net bag was bent into the shape of a butterfly. Yuck! I would hate to try to actually catch something with it. I was in college before I got my first real net. I distinctly remember thinking, "wow, it's a tool, not a toy."
2. It's easy to find good nets. One of the reasons that we used toy nets as kids was that it was really hard to find a supplier for the real thing. The Internet has changed all that. You can by butterfly nets online from suppliers like BioQuip and Carolina Biolgical Supply.
3. For kids, a 12" or 15" net hoop is best. Any larger will be too big and difficult for them to use. Pick a net with a wooden rather than a metal handle. That way, if the handle is too long for the child to use comfortably, you can cut it down to size.
4. Buy an extra net bag. Up to a point, you can mend tears. But sooner or later it will rip completely apart after it's been dragged through brambles while still wet from catching frogs or fish instead of butterflies.
5. Buy a field guide to go with the net. My favorite for beginners (both kids and adults) is still the Golden Guide to Butterflies and Moths.
6. Go butterfly hunting with the gift's recipient. That's the surest way to have your gift really help to get them interested in the natural world.