Are Butterflies Wildlife?

Opinion by Kip Hansen — 9 March 2023

Butterflies seem to be growing in popularity as the Poster Children of the environmental and climate crisis movement.  The Monarch Butterfly has been trumpeted about as being Endangered and it has even been claimed that it was declared endangered by the  IUCN. 

The truth is that the Migratory Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus plexippus), a sub-species (maybe),  has been classified by the IUCN (which is not a governmental organization) to be endangered – of course, the species itself is doing fine and lives in many parts of world and even in many parts of the United States and Mexico.  It is only the migratory phenomenon that is in danger of disappearing. 

Personal Note:  I was in central Florida for the Heartland Climate Conference two weeks ago and found I could not walk outside without seeing a Monarch Butterfly flitting around the foliage at the hotel or in my sister-in-law’s backyard.  Monarchs are alive and doing well.  The Great Monarch Migration is still in trouble, however.

Now, appearing in the once-great newspaper, the New York Times,  we find that there is a movement afoot to see that butterflies and other insects, are added to state laws concerning the right of the state to manage its wildlife.

The Times piece is written by Catrin Einhorn, on the  climate and environment beat.  She writes “Are Butterflies Wildlife? Depends Where You Live.” With a lede that reads:

A legal quirk leaves officials in at least a dozen states with little or no authority to protect insects. That’s a growing problem for humans.

Let’s be a little more exacting:  It is not a “legal quirk” that is responsible – it is the definition of “wildlife”.  Both the generally accepted definition of wildlife and the statutory definitions as well.

The Wiki leads with this:

“Wildlife refers to undomesticated animal species, but has come to include all organisms that grow or live wild in an area without being introduced by humans. Wildlife was also synonymous to game: those birds and mammals that were hunted for sport. Wildlife can be found in all ecosystems. Deserts, plains, grasslands, woodlands, forests, and other areas, including the most developed urban areas, all have distinct forms of wildlife.”

As with almost all-things-biology, the definitions are often not very helpful. “Species” itself has some 26 distinct proposed definitions – which then causes all sorts of confusion and havoc when one gets legislation such as the Endangered Species Act (two versions, here and updated and expanded here).

Einhorn states:

“…conservation officials in at least 12 states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming — have their hands tied, legally speaking, when it comes to protecting insects. The creatures are simply left out of state conservation statues, or their situation is ambiguous.”

The impetus behind the “let’s worry about insect conservation” movement?  “State agencies are really at the forefront of conservation for wildlife,” said Scott Black, executive director of the Xerces Society, a nonprofit group that advocates for insect conservation. “But in these states where they can’t work on insects, or in some cases any invertebrates, they don’t. So, you see things just languish.”

Xereces Society, which does terrific work helping with Monarch conservation, by the way, bemoans that one quarter of the U.S. states do not include insects in their definition of wildlife to be managed by state conservation agencies — and is probably behind the push to get them included.

Einhorn quotes Ross Winton, an invertebrate biologist at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department: “In large part, state agencies remain focused on species that are hunted and fished, according to state workers and scientists. “I have talked to agency leadership in some states who don’t even know that an insect is an animal.”  

[That seems a rather cheap shot – I suspect that what he is talking about is that his agency leadership uses a different definition of “animals”: the statutory definition of those animals for which the Texas Parks and Wildlife department is responsible.  – kh ]

Einhorn tells us: “Some states do appear to be waking up to the plight of insects. …. A bill introduced last month in Nevada seeks to expand the definition of wildlife to include non-pest insects in need of conservation. In Colorado, a new state law has mandated a study on protecting native pollinators.”

But, can we safely say, without the bias of advocacy, that insects, in general,  have a plight that we should be addressing?  And can we agree with Einhorn that “That’s a growing problem for humans”?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Let’s do a little thought experiment

What if states mandated that state conservation/fish and wildlife  agencies (which have a wide variety of names) take responsibility for and grant them ”authority to protect” insects.?

Would we get into a situation like we have with the Endangered Species Act?  Which requires action at taxpayers expense to protect even inconsequential species and subspecies?   Or like Nevada, only “non-pest insects”?  Or maybe “only popular insects like butterflies and bees” (but not wasps)? 

Would it produce situations in which needed development of infrastructure can be stopped by claiming it might harm some obscure insect sub-sub-species? [ see the Snail Darter controversy and why it was nonsense in the first place ]

Would it end up allowing Fish and Wildlife departments, “protecting insects”,  to wipe out whole local industries as was done over the Spotted Owl?

Would such authority require protection?  Must we protect the bark beetles which destroy forests?

Would such authority allow the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to regulate the types of flowers my wife plants in the public garden she cares for?  To regulate which, if any, insecticides she can use to protect the garden and preserve its beauty, lest they injure some rare insect?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Laws are easy enough to pass, with enough advocacy money and effort, but very difficult to get rid of.  All laws are prone to Law Whispering, the art of lawyers “teaching old laws new tricks” – that is, creating the legal illusion that an old law can now be said to mean something entirely different or apply to many more situations than was originally intended by legislatures or that an old law can rightfully be applied in what are, to the average citizen, societally harmful ways. 

I’m sure that there are some interesting and not-harmful-to-human-interests insects that, due to new development of human housing, recreation, forestry, mining and other human activities, are losing habitat and whose populations are declining.  This is inevitable. [See Darwin – all changes produce winners and losers.]

There may be cases in which local citizens (not some bureaucrat) feel they should make sacrifices or alter planned activities for the sake of the protection of some insect.  The Monarch Butterfly offers an instance: changing the pattern and timing of the mowing of roadway verges by highway departments would allow milkweed  critical to Monarch Butterfly reproduction to flourish at important times, and not only cost nothing extra, but save money for those departments. 

So, what are the Insect Advocates doing?

Einhorn gives us an example: 

“In Utah, for example, the top insect authority is arguably Amanda Barth, an ecologist at Utah State University who leads the state’s rare insect conservation program under a 2020 memorandum of understanding with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.” …. “Ms. Barth’s position is politically delicate enough that her email signature states explicitly that she’s an employee of the university. When states move to protect insects, they often face backlash from industries like farming and development that stand to lose money.  ….  She says she has to keep it “transparent that the Division of Wildlife Resources is not acting outside of its authority by dedicating resources or personnel to this program.” [In other words, this is an extra-legal work-around contrary to legislative intent.] 

In addition to that work-around, they have created another extra-legal work-around to extend their authority through a non-governmental non-profit alliance:

“Ms. Barth leads a monarch butterfly and native pollinator working group with other Western states through the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, a nonprofit group. One of the benefits: They can make suggestions about conservation of western monarchs, which have declined about 90 percent since the 1980s, that they would not have the authority to offer within their own states.”

In this last paragraph we see something common to advocacy groups in general:  sometimes they create alliances and organizations to create opportunities to act outside existing laws to influence government action – often to influence their own members, who are government employees,  to act in ways they (the government employees) themselves are not allowed to act under their own state laws.   We have this in the not-yet-extinct sue-and-settle arena. We have this in the revolving-door executives between EPA and environmental activist groups (and in some cases, industry). And nearly countless more.

Bottom Lines:

1.  There are some iconic and/or important insect species that, perhaps, should receive some attention and some action from environmental agencies.  This should be in the form of government programs that encourage, but not force, efforts to help desired species improve their populations.

2.  It is a logical fallacy to expect results different from past experience to the same action taken anew – thus it is ill-advised to grant new legal decision-making and enforcement power to government agencies operated by un-elected bureaucrats – particularly when those agencies are often headed by highly biased special interest advocates (which is often the case with Fish and Wildlife/Environmental state agencies.   

3.  Insects are, definitionally, animals.  However, it does not naturally follow that governments, at whatever level, must be empowered to protect all insects because they are in the taxonomic Kingdom: Animalia.  Granting such an idea to be true would lead to absurd results.

4.  Mankind can neither order the tides to stop rising and falling or order the natural world to stop acting in natural ways, including trying to force Nature (as a broad system) to allow a “losing” species to “win” and a “winning” species to “lose”.  As conditions change, and they are and are always changing, some species find conditions have improved for them and some species find it has become unfavorable for them.   Thus sayeth Darwin.

5.  In the larger scheme of things, insects, as a class, are the most winningest of all (with apologies).

# # # # #

Author’s Comment:

Readers already know I like butterflies and any and all life forms that I find personally interesting.  I make no excuses for my biases in these choices.  I find the Monarch’s migratory behavior especially fascinating.

I support personal and community efforts to benefit pollinators of all types, as long as they are not also harmful to our agricultural interests.

For you, reader, this means pollinator and butterfly-friendly flower gardens, native milkweeds for Monarchs (if they are found in your area) and encouraging local officials to support these efforts. 

And,  please, if you find your local government (State, county, city) intending to grant more decision making and enforcement power to un-elected bureaucrats, take political action to prevent it.

Thanks for reading.

# # # # #

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Bryan A
March 9, 2023 10:58 pm

If everything is classified as either

Insects certainly aren’t either of the latter options

Richard Greene
Reply to  Bryan A
March 10, 2023 6:20 am

There is also the “In transition” category

For example, Jumpin’ Joe Bidet is in transition,
from an animal, into a vegetable.

John Flusteredman had already made that transition.

Last edited 3 months ago by Richard Greene
Gunga Din
Reply to  Richard Greene
March 10, 2023 1:12 pm

Don’t forget “The Thing from Another World”!

Reply to  Bryan A
March 10, 2023 6:50 am

Politicians, on the other hand? Hmm, vegetable, I guess.

Bryan A
March 9, 2023 11:07 pm

We must protect all cockroach and termite species infesting the homes of Climate Evangelists and State Capitol housing and Climate Alarmists

March 9, 2023 11:25 pm

“I could not walk outside without seeing a Monarch Butterfly flitting around” – same here, in coastal savanna “dry tropics” NE Australia. Not sure what they live on, but this year the wet season has been very wet, such that the old joke “watching the grass grow” is not valid as an indicator of boredom because you can actually watch grasses and native species growing. And it’s not because I am smoking some of it …

Last edited 3 months ago by martinc19
Bryan A
Reply to  martinc19
March 9, 2023 11:34 pm

Milkweed is their favorite

Reply to  Bryan A
March 10, 2023 3:39 am

so they say but milkweeds arent abundant(dunno if we even have them in aus) but if I water late arvo I get monarchs suddenly appear for a drink, as well as many others

Reply to  ozspeaksup
March 10, 2023 1:16 pm

What are generally called ‘milkweeds’ are the larval food of the Wanderer (aka Monarch) – this includes the cottonbushes (or whatever you call them in your neck of the woods) and other assorted weeds that may have once been in the milkweed genus Asclepias. (Botanical systematists have been having a splitting fit for decades.)

I looked through my butterfly books and can’t find any records of ‘Monarchs’ feeding on Australian native plants – just introduced milkweeds and close relatives. The Lesser Wanderer, though, is a related butterfly that looks rather like a smaller version of the Wanderer – the Lesser Wanderer is considered native to Australia and its caterpillars show up on both weedy and native members of the milkweed subfamily.

Adult butterflies will feed at numerous different native and wild flowers, but without the plants the caterpillars feed on, you won’t have the adults flitting at flowers.

Reply to  Bryan A
March 10, 2023 5:27 am

also buddleja (Butterfly bush)

Capt Jeff
March 9, 2023 11:45 pm

We need to re-establish malarial mosquito populations in southeast for the sake of conservation.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 10, 2023 11:03 am

Malaria itself is an important tool in historical (and potential future) moderation and direction of the evolution of animal species on earth … although from the selfish individualistic perspective the Malarial Species’ may appear to be a bad thing, we don’t know enough to justify losing (or even restricting) this important part of the earths natural processes.

Even the CDC is lacking in publicized knowledge about malaria (they generally say there are only four species that impact humans … leaving out Plasmodium knowlesi (or P. knowlesi). If we lost the P. knowlesi species we would lose an important cross species potential (macquaes to humans) that Faucci & ECO-Alliance & others would not be able to upgrade/study in their efforts to protect us natural variations in the evolutionary process.

That being said, it is obvious that we should work to retain all the important & diverse species in the Plasmodium Genus, especially those that intermingle with humans, other mammals (and even bats…)


Useful Idiots & Democrats

Last edited 2 months ago by DonM
Reply to  Capt Jeff
March 10, 2023 1:24 pm

What Kip says is generally true – the mosquitoes that vector malarias are widespread today in areas of the world that haven’t had widespread malaria epidemics for many decades. So, be careful what you wish for – you may very well have Anopheles mozzies in your own backyard and if someone suffering from an active malarial infection moves into the neighbourhood …

Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 11, 2023 12:59 pm

Yes, that used to be called ‘airport malaria’ because you’d get clusters in communities around large international airports. I see in Wiki, though, that ‘airport malaria’ has been PC’d and should only be used for when an infected Anopheles coming in on an airplane is the cause of the locus of infection. That seems a very unlikely, though not impossible, happening, but one wonders how they would know a mosquito was the source?

March 9, 2023 11:52 pm

While this is not on point, this article seems a more reasonable place than most to consider an interesting question.

The definition of a species has been modified well beyond its origin meaning as encompassing all individuals whose interbreeding can produce fertile offspring. The result is that a species, under the original definition, is often divided into multiple species under the newer definitions. My impression is that the impetus for this extension is primarily to have a weapon that, through the endangered species laws, can be used to hamper human activities in as many situations as possible.

While the activists pushing such redefinitions aim in a different direction, is it not quite logically consistent that there are thus many species of humans?

Steve Case
Reply to  AndyHce
March 10, 2023 12:33 am

“The definition of a species has been modified…
The result is that a species…”

In the future any change in distribution: Location or population, of a species will be regarded as an environmental catastrophe and blamed on “Climate Change, requiring you to conform to the edicts of your local political officials.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 10, 2023 11:07 am

That’s what I was thinking.

How sub-genus’ alone have been created since the implementation of the ESA? How many new species?

Reply to  AndyHce
March 10, 2023 4:14 pm

‘Species’ has never been well defined. The Biological Species Concept became imbedded in Western textbooks, but never made much sense. Even in birds and mammals it is almost impossible to test and when tested has tended to give unsatisfactory answers.

We like to think we can pigeonhole Nature, but Nature is far too complex for our definitions.

“Nor shall I here discuss the various definitions which have been given of the term species. No one definition has as yet satisfied all naturalists; yet every naturalist knows vaguely what he means when he speaks of a species.”
– Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, Chapter 2.

“I have just been comparing the definitions of species […] It is really laughable to see what different ideas are prominent in various naturalists’ minds, when they speak of ‘species’; in some, resemblance is everything and descent of little weight – in some, resemblance seems to go for nothing, and Creation the reigning idea – in some, descent is the key — in some, sterility an unfailing test, with others it is not worth a farthing. It all comes, I believe, from trying to define the undefinable.”
– Charles Darwin, in a letter to Joseph Hooker, 1856.

March 9, 2023 11:58 pm

It was said that every new law creates 300 new criminals. That was long ago, when London had a hundred thousand people. I suspect every new law now creates 300 thousand criminals. One can’t fart in peace without breaking some libtard’s moral code.
Used to be a time when one’s moral code was described as “having spine”.
Today’s libtard has no spine, they are kept upright by the stick up their ass, they call it ‘moral resolve’.

March 10, 2023 12:36 am

I had alarmists down as leeches….

Peta of Newark
March 10, 2023 1:00 am

Only Big Government and FatPig Lawyers could ever get into a tizzy about whether ‘Insects Are Wildlife’
There’ll be money involved. Nothing surprises any more

But wait!!!!!!!!!!!
Here’s a random thought: Are the bugs getting revenge?

(Researchers in Germany found that The Average German Windmill ‘harvests a tonne of bugs annually. I suspect and as usual, Australian Bugs will be bigger and angrier than yer average German mozzie and quite capable of taking down windmills)

Richard Greene
Reply to  Peta of Newark
March 10, 2023 6:22 am

The dead bugs attract birds and bats
The dead birds attract bigger birds
The dead bigger birds attract animal predators
That is te result of bird and bat shredders

Reply to  Peta of Newark
March 10, 2023 8:04 am

Windmills are already being exempted with regard to their killings of endangered bird species.
I doubt it would be long before they are exempted in regards to the killing of endangered insect species.

March 10, 2023 1:18 am

Shall methane-emitting termites be considered a precious resource or criminal polluters? What if we could offset a single milk cow by destroying 250 kilos of biomass-consuming, ghg producing insects?

A deliberate absurdity, of course, but a bureaucracy empowered to protect animals, insects, plants, bacteria, or fungi over the well-being of humans is missing something essential in its charter. Empowered and funded (eg, for Monarchs) to plant milkweed and support habitat is probably more desireable

We also have the snail darter creep to deal with — if an agency is successful in taking a species off the endangered list, can it be defunded and shut down, or must it continue forever, growing budget and staff endlessly?

March 10, 2023 1:44 am

“California’s Third Appellate District Court of Appeal ruled at the end of May that bees could be protected under a state law to protect endangered species because bees meet the state’s legal definition of fish.”

Yep, according to California, bees are fish.

March 10, 2023 3:47 am

Are butterflies on the menu in our brave new insect eating world? … asking for a friend.

Reply to  Alpha
March 10, 2023 5:31 am

Are there dips for butterfly chips?

March 10, 2023 4:47 am

Insects should be protected they are the bottom of the food chain. Many insects are good in that they are pollinators or eat harmful insects. Though we need to also recognize pests and allow for remediation. This is why government involvement will be a disaster.

An example for me is we were debating what to do with carpenter bees around the house. I don’t want to kill them cause they are pollinators but I can’t have them destroying the house. So we are playing with a spray and that seems to have made them move on. If that doesn’t work we will trap and kill them. And for butterflies plant butterfly weed in your gardens… we need to encourage building more eco systems.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Adam
March 10, 2023 1:20 pm

We have a wood shelf on our front porch that they seemed to like.
I read somewhere that they don’t like citrus so I sprayed the bottom with one of those citrus based cleaners. Seemed to work for about a month. Then I went back to an ant and roach killer that claimed to work for months.

Reply to  Adam
March 10, 2023 1:51 pm

You could try covering the ends of the beams with screen mesh, or filling the holes and painting over the areas attacked with a preservative. This would be a more long term solution than killing the current population, because they will be back. Also, a sting from a large carpenter bee is no fun.

Providing some alternative soft wood for the bees to nest in is what I do. That is easy for me to say, because the Australian carpenter bees don’t generally seem to be a problem in hardwoods and termites would get the untreated pine before the bees would anyway. Also, we have some spectacular carpenter bees in Australia (try looking up Xylocopa aerata). [ link added by editor ]

Last edited 2 months ago by Kip Hansen
Joseph Zorzin
March 10, 2023 5:26 am

“we find that there is a movement afoot to see that butterflies and other insects, are added to state laws concerning the right of the state to manage its wildlife.”

Here in Wokachusetts, bugs of all sorts have been “protected” for years by the state’s Rare and Endangered Species Program, part of the state’s Fish and Wildlife Agency. I’ve had timber sales held up over bugs. Pisses me off!

George B
March 10, 2023 5:54 am

It would be great if all of the Solenopsis invicta were completely eradicated from the USA.
Yes, this would be the insect equivalent to genocide but only for one species in Selenopsis and only in the USA.

George B
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 11, 2023 5:24 am

We tried to carpet bomb these guys out of existence in the 1960s. I remember B-24s and other old WW2 bombers flying at low altitude dropping cracked corn laced with DDT on us. Result, NO JOY.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 11, 2023 7:15 am

Nature may be providing the genocide in the form of a small ant impervious to the fire ant bite. In my yard in East Texas, Longhorn Crazy Ants arrived three or four years ago. For the last several years, for the first time in over 30 years, there are no fire ants in my yard. Crazy ants are much friendlier.

Richard Greene
March 10, 2023 6:17 am

“Now, appearing in the once-great newspaper, the New York Times,”  

When was that?
the 1920’s?

Last edited 3 months ago by Richard Greene
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 10, 2023 8:10 am

In the 1920’s, the NYT went out of it’s way to hide the famine in Russia.
The rot has been in place for a century.

Reply to  MarkW
March 10, 2023 1:26 pm

During the 20s there was a Russian famine that the communist used to take grain from Ukraine and transport it to Russia. So the Russian famine led to a million dead starved Ukrainians.

Stalin’s long memory may have been what led to the 1930s Ukraine famine that killed millions. Actually a genocide to make room for Russians in Ukraine.

The Times didn’t cover that either.

michael hart
March 10, 2023 7:21 am

Hey, North America has already been recently inundated with one UK Migratory Monarch and his Californian mate.

I guess your need is greater than ours, so you’re welcome to keep them both.
No, really, don’t mention it.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 10, 2023 8:11 am

Their primary food source appears to be public attention, so if everyone were to ignore them, they would go away on their own.

Last edited 2 months ago by MarkW
March 10, 2023 7:54 am

I can see them banning any insecticide which has the potential of harming a protected insect.
Which unfortunately would be all pesticides. Flyswatters would be next.

How much food our we willing to lose in order to protect “endangered” insects?

March 10, 2023 7:57 am

When do they add bacteria and viruses to the list of things that have to be protected.
Would this mean that doctors could no longer fight against rare diseases?

Mr Ed
March 10, 2023 8:57 am

Interesting story, the Tiger Swallowtail is one of my favorite butterflies. I haven’t seen
too many Monarchs for years now that I think about it. And I have a couple of milkweed
patches along the creek that the goats don’t bother down in the valley.

I spend a lot of time in the mountains and am presently cursing Choristoneura fumiferana aka the Spruce Bud Worm which has left a large number of brown needled fir trees
this and the past few winters. When they hatch you can see clouds of them flying around mating.
There is a mountain pass 30 miles to the north of here that if you park and walk to the top of the mountain near by you can see for miles in all direction. And every tree
you see is dead, all from a little moth..

Some of the green bean climate change types say that the bark beetle that
killed the lodge pole pine in huge numbers back in ’05-06 was from a human caused
warming climate, due to no more -20 temps for weeks on end but I disagree. I say
it’s the Ivory Tower Management government back in DC that is the cause. .They seem to
like it when all those dead trees burn and the rivers run black from all all the
ash and soot for months on end so they can blame CO2 . The so called
endangered species deal is one huge racket.

Mr Ed
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 10, 2023 12:26 pm

I live in a cabin in the mountains. I see things that very few
people do. One example is the wolverine. The local enviro group Alliance
for the Wild Rockies has sued and won multiple times to stop forest management
projects using the wolverine .being in the area. We did some wildfire management
logging around the property after the beetle kill that was regulation exempt.

Our logger made slash piles that were exempt from regulation due to we kept the timber for our own use as we have a sawmill. We left the slash
piles sit for a few years. After a year they became populated with
rabbits. A then the predators started hunting around the piles. In particular
a male wolverine. I have photos of wolverine tracks on my porch deck.
I have smelled them inside the house at night.. I have trail cam photos
around the property. I even saw one while snowshoeing. That particular
wolverine found a mate and had a few litters up the mountain behind
the cabin..

I have told some
of these things to a midlevel FS guy and he told me I know more that his
biologist, I doubt that but I do know some things. If the Ivory Tower
managers in DC wanted to have more wolverines I suspect it could be
done rather simply. In the New England private timber grounds the foresters
were able to increase a cat population simply by management actions..
The wolverine population could be managed the same way.

I’m going to try a drone to deal with the bud worm hatch this year with
some sort of spray around a batch of big firs

Mr Ed
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 11, 2023 8:32 am

Glad you enjoyed it. I enjoy you views here on this blog.

Living and working in a remote area has
been an enlightening experience. I showed some trail cam pics
to an Agency guy a while back and it opened his eyes a bunch, they
were what I believe to be of a pack of wolf-coyote crosses.

The craziest thing that I’ve become aware of in the past few years
was passed on to me by a FS camp tender. He was a retired math
teacher that we’ve known for years.. He was next to our property
near dark in early November and saw a “twilight bull”. That’s
a hybrid cross of a elk and moose. The body of a moose and
the antlers of a elk. I’m in the same mountain range where the
first one was ever seen. I told that to a couple of guys and they suggested I lay off the hooch, and I might stop having those visions..

March 10, 2023 2:35 pm

Hi Kip: Just a few comments:

1) For the vast majority of insects, habitat preservation is the only reasonable approach to insect conservation. You have (or maybe had) a good organisation in North America, The Nature Conservancy, that seemed to recognise this. Even in a passive sense, setting aside areas for larger animals will benefit the smaller ones too. And as you note, even small scale efforts like not mowing road verges can be a big help.

2) For a few large and gaudy insects, especially beetles with long lifecycles, it would make sense to prohibit collecting. However, if you don’t protect the beetles’ habitats, they won’t survive.

3) I can’t think of a butterfly that lives for very long, except the ones that overwinter as adults, but even then their active reproductive period will be only a few weeks at best. Adult populations are naturally highly variable and are probably mostly driven by larval host plant and predator/pathogen dynamics. The use of adult butterfly population fluctuations (eg Monarchs) as doomster predictors, seems an especially insidious form of green dishonesty to me.

4) As for creeping regulations, it isn’t just businesses and the general public who can be oppressed. Even ‘scientists’ (I’m so old I can remember when this term needed the modifier ‘mad’ to have a bad connotation) whose research might actually benefit the conservation of arthropod populations are impacted.

One funny example that I encountered was when applying for a permit to collect arthropods in New South Wales National Parks (Australia). I learned that if I wanted to include dragonflies in my collections, then I also needed a fishing permit – larval dragonflies live in freshwaters and were considered ‘fish’. So were yabbies, but that made more sense to me as they are good eating.

The entire permitting process for collecting arthropods on public lands in Australia has become exceedingly tedious. You have to get your permits rolling at least a year in advance so they can work their way through the bureaucracy – and if some ranger goes on holiday, your application can sit in their inbox until well past the field season. Lots of annoying and preposterous demands too – like declaring how many arthropods of each group you are going to collect. How could anyone know how many arthropods are going to be collected in a Malaise Trap or tumble out of a Berlese Funnel extraction? Lots of arbitrary enforcement too.

Anyway, enough carping and thanks for the stimulating article.

March 10, 2023 7:17 pm

Einhorn quotes Ross Winton, an invertebrate biologist at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department: “In large part, state agencies remain focused on species that are hunted and fished, according to state workers and scientists. “I have talked to agency leadership in some states who don’t even know that an insect is an animal.

The vast portion of monies given to states for “Wildlife Restoration” come from the The Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937 (16 U.S.C. 669-669k; P-R) and the Sportfish Restoration act.

As such, hunters, shooters, fishermen all pay excise taxes specifically to support wildlife restoration, and yes, animals are specified.

The Wildlife Restoration Program provides grant funds to the states and insular areas fish and wildlife agencies for projects to restore, conserve, manage and enhance wild birds and mammals and their habitat.”

But, sportsmen and fishermen all understand that no wildlife stands alone, so funds have been provided to assist/restore almost any animal that really needs it, including manatees and sea otters.

I suspect hunters, shooters and fisherpeople will object to substantial monies towards insects that are not endangered.

If you want to seek a compliant portion of the population willing to pay excise taxes, say on mosquito and tick control products, then you are welcome to petition Congress to pass an act to restore insects.

Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) are paid for through the Pittman-Robertson Act. WMAs in the American East already plant milkweed to support monarch butterflies. I expect many Midwest and Western states have similar programs for their WMAs.


Total Unadjusted Actual Wildlife Restoration and Hunter Education Apportionments since 1939


Michael Carter
March 11, 2023 8:30 am

Entomology is fascinating. Insects are definitely wildlife. I recall the splendor of butterflies in the West Africa jungle. So many species. They are most certainly not tame life. What of bacteria? There are millions in one teaspoon of healthy soil. Try doing without that stuff. Nope I am not advocating the banning of anything. Just saying. I just don’t get how people don’t get that there are pluses and minuses in EVERY thing we humans do. Calculating sensible tradeoffs is wisdom.

Michael Carter
March 11, 2023 8:39 am

Did you know that ants collect their dead from the battle field, just like Marines? I learnt this after bombing them with a squirt of kitchen cleaner (chemical warfare). They die instantly. don’t wipe them off. Just leave them. Next day all are gone. i.e. with this species. Not sure about yours.

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