Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Friday, April 10, 2009

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.

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18 Comments:

At 19:07, OpenID beetlesinthebush said...

Hi Doug,

When I first saw the post and the photo of the insect net, my heart skipped a beat - I'm at this moment writing something up about insect nets, and my first thought was "Oh no, he scooped me!" All is well though, you take a different track than I do.

That said, nice post - I cringe whenever I see those toy nets at the department stores, seeing their cheap plastic construction and knowing that real nets can be gotten at BioQuip for the same low price.

Rejoice - tiger beetle season is almost upon us!

regards--ted

 
At 00:11, Blogger SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

A lovelt post Doug. Here I cannot find one anywhere so have had to resort to making one for myself. I have not tried it out yet but will whn I go on vacation next month. :)

You are right, this would make a lovely gift for a child.

 
At 08:40, Blogger Gallicissa said...

Thanks for those useful tips. I have never owened a butterfly or any other insect net.

 
At 09:26, Blogger Ur-spo said...

How about a follow up entry on the proper use of a net and what should you do with the captured butterfly?

 
At 10:12, Blogger Dr. Know said...

As a kid, I had to make my own nets. Parents could have cared less. What I wouldn't have given for a REAL net. A few years back, I went on a quest to find a net. Hobby stores, local "science" stores - nothing but junk costing about $12. Finally ordered some real insect pins and nets from BioQuip - one knock-down and one standard extendable. Much nicer indeed. Same as yours, Doug, but with green netting.

 
At 10:17, Blogger Dr. Know said...

I forgot to mention, re-bent coat hangers, old broomsticks, and some kind of stiff, hex-weave looking stuff from the local fabric department were the components of homemade nets. They sort of worked...

 
At 11:56, Blogger Dave Coulter said...

Those Golden Guides are gems. I learned a heck of a lot from them and had the editions for fossils, fishing, astronomy, and rocks. If you think they weren't influential look at my blog topics, hahaha!

On another note, I was sniffing through the Ben Meadows (forestry) catalog the other day and noticed they sell pans for gold prospecting!

 
At 18:48, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Ted- I'll be interested to see your take on it. I have a surprise for you coming up monetarily.

Joan and Amila- I bet either of these companies will ship internationally for you.

Sop- Let's see what I can come up with.

Dr. Know- I have made my own cages and traps many times. The best fabric that I have found is mosquito netting, but the easiest thing that's easy to find is bridal veil. I've gotten very accustomed to going into the fabric store and asking to be directed to the bridal department.

Dave- after butterflies, my favorite Golden Guides were to pond life and non-flowering plants.

 
At 20:02, Blogger cedrorum said...

Thanks for these tips and great post. I will be visiting one of the suppliers to buy 2 for my boys. There's nothing like catching tiger swallowtails.

 
At 18:33, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha ha ha... I am ashamed to say that I still have one of those toy butterfly nets (plastic). I'm going to mexico during the summer though, so I think I will buy one of better quality.

"Dr. Know- I have made my own cages and traps many times."

I think that'd be a great topic for a post!

 
At 19:31, Blogger Doug Taron said...

cedrorum= I want to hear about all the fun you have when you take the boys out butterflying.

Anon- Several of the nets available from BioQuip have folding net hoops and handles that disassemble into small sections. They're perfect for travel and only a few dollars more than a standard net.

 
At 21:10, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hope you don't damage them and then let them go.......better to never have a net but keep still and observe with a camera.

 
At 22:29, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Anon- Thanks for sharing.

 
At 15:19, Blogger Seabrooke said...

This was a great post to see. I vaguely recall having a toy net as a kid, but never using it much. I bought myself a real net, handmade by a local insect enthusiast and being sold at a dragonfly count, so that I could more easily identify the odonates we encountered on the count. It was a great investment, however, has trekked across the continent twice with me, and lives always near at hand. These days I find myself scooping moths from the rafters with it.

My biggest peeve about the kiddy toy nets isn't the cheaper construction, but rather the really wimpy shallow net pouch. How are you supposed to keep anything in it after you've managed to catch it? I use my kiddy net mostly for scooping up pond inverts, where the shallow bag is actually more useful.

 
At 15:30, Blogger Doug Taron said...

Seabrooke- Welcome to the Tapestry. I completely agree about the useless, shallow net bag in most toy butterfly nets. Thanks for an excellent suggestion for a good use for an old toy net. Have fun counting dragonflies.

 
At 01:14, Blogger Dr. Know said...

Since the topic is leps, here is the Chrysalis Motel, complete with its latest visitor, a Tiger Swallowtail, checking out for the season.
The Chrysalis Motel

 
At 17:47, Anonymous bev said...

Very nice piece, Doug. A nice reminder of a gift that I could get for my 6 y.o. niece who loves insects -- or at least, loves to look at them. I bought her a t-shirt with beetles all over it and she won't wear it because it scares her (Doh!). My grandmother made my first insect net out of a broomstick, a coathanger, and a piece of cheesecloth. She used to use cheesecloth to make a net to capture minnows too. It worked quite well for that.

 
At 10:39, Blogger NKRobbins said...

What happens to the butterflies after they are caught in the nets? Can children handle nets and not harm or kill butterflies?

 

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