Monday, June 20, 2011

Collecting Butterflies

During summers when I was young, my brother and I would spend hours sitting next to our mother's lantana bushes watching and catching skippers who fluttered around by the score. We would take them in our cupped palms very loosely and allow them to tickle the insides of our hands, then we would let them go to drift away. We had been told that their wings were very fragile, so we were extremely careful. Do you remember how it is to see the world through the eyes of a child? When I think of those bright red and yellow lantana plants, I can smell their sticky scent and feel those charming skippers on my palms, wonderful and magical, and I am as a child again.

My life now does not include nearly enough butterflies and no lantana whatsoever.

My love of butterflies led me to investigate the idea of collecting. In those days you could see beautiful butterfly collections hanging on people's walls. You were led to believe that these gorgeous creatures lived for only a day (not true!) and that the collecting part was not a cruelty, but a way of preserving the expired bodies of the butterflies. When I got my first butterfly mounting kit I was simply horrified to discover that it was necessary to spread their wings by using some foul smelling chemical. I half-heatedly tried to relax the wings of one specimen I had found, but frankly I soon lost all interest in this hobby. It began to seem somewhat barbaric, especially since the kit came with something called a "killing jar." I never did have a butterfly collection; instead I enjoyed them alive. I stopped trying to catch them and simply observed them. Certainly there are plants which are absolutely foolproof in attracting them to the garden. I'm most familiar with buddlea, which until recently, I've planted in almost every garden I've ever created.

I made this book with young children several years ago:

Here are the directions for making the pop-up butterfly (click on the image for a larger view). Cut on the solid black lines, fold on the dotted line and draw/paint on the gray lines. Paste a piece of bright colored paper behind the cut out butterfly. Voila! A butterfly you can collect without shame.

Another way to collect butterflies is to patronize one of these craftswomen on Etsy:

Clockwise from top left:

Butterfly Palooza
Wall Butterflies
Tea Party Butterflies
Edible Butterflies


  1. I love the mounted butterfly displays as well but could never try to create my own because of the killing factor. Who could kill such living beauty? I love the butterfly book! This summer we've been playing butterfly bingo with my grand much fun!

  2. Thank you for stopping by my place to leave a note. I found butterfly bingo at a butterfly house gift shop

    It really is bingo only with butterflies. It's much prettier than playing bingo with numbers!

  3. Bonjour Musetta,

    I adore butterflies and I do have Buddlea bushes here in my garden.

    When I lived in Houston, one of the large museums opened a huge butterfly center. You walked through was like a tropical rain forest..and filled with butterflies flitting all around you. If you wore colorful clothing, they would often land on you. Before you were allowed to leave, they had to check your clothing for stowaways.
    It was magical!

    Here is a link to the Museum site:


    Janet xox

  4. Bonjour Musetta!
    I enjoyed reading your post about butterflies. I love putting butterflies in my own artwork. Your little book is so creative! I tried making a ladybug a few years ago in a little book for school.
    Tu as un journee magique!

  5. What an excellent book Nancy. Do you have closet-aspirations to be a writer of children's books? (Yay! think I have the comments sorted, problems with cookies or some such).

  6. Love the book! Thanks for the inspiration.