Arolla Butterfly Field Trip

As regular readers will know, I like to take and post pictures of butterflies, though, as there are so many different species here in the Val d’Hérens, I often have great difficulty in identifying them.  Well, yesterday, in an attempt to put that right, I went on a field trip with an expert, Vincent Baudraz, and 4 other keen, would-be lepidopterists.

The method was quite simple.  We essentially let Vincent catch a few butterflies, put them carefully into a plastic containers, then the 5 of us would try our best to identify them, using Vincent’s and his brother Michel’s book “Guide d’identification des papillons de jour de Suisse”.  Yes, it’s in french, which makes it a little more difficult for me, but I think it’s fair to say that, by using the step by step, question and answer approach at the beginning of the book, ‘the team’ got the vast majority of his challenges right.  And, I have to say, Vincent is an absolute genius, he actually identifies them on the wing, even the tiny ones (which certainly saves a lot of time catching and releasing the same species of butterfly multiple times).  He would spot a ‘new’ one then snaffle it up in his net with a swish and a flick of the wrist, so that the delicate little creature was completely unharmed and they were always released in the same area that we found them.

It would be remiss of me not to thank Vincent for his patience and outstanding knowledge, not to mention the rest of the gang for making it such a fabulous day.

Below my usual gallery but, for anyone who may be interested, I’ve shown a worked example using the guide book, pictorially of course, below that. 🙂

Below an example of a captured butterfly and the step by step approach through the book to get to the correct identification.  As you will see, once identified, there is also a reference to more detailed information, with drawings, of both the male and female upper and lower wing attributes.  I recommend viewing the series of pictures in gallery mode (i.e. double click on the first picture, then right arrow through) to best appreciate the logic and sequence. 

5 thoughts on “Arolla Butterfly Field Trip

  1. Really really liked this lepidopterist lesson, Mike. And even though it was in French, I followed your subtitles and instructions all the way to the end with great satisfaction. I have always found Lepidopterology completely baffling because the butterflies don’t perch for long, they don’t make noise, the upper wings and under wings are different, and I think sometimes the genders are different too. These photos are exquisite, as usual. I really liked the one of your group involved in the butterfly identifying, with the gorgeous Alps towering in the background. This post reminded me so much of Nabokov and his butterfly studies in the Alps. Thanks so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your comments. It’s fantastic that at least a few other people share the mystery and joy of these wonderful and extremely delicate little creatures. As you say, they are very difficult to identify sometimes, due to the variations in colour, etc. between the males and females, but I guess that makes it all the more challenging and exciting to pin it down to one particular species. I’ve never heard of Nabokov, but I will surely look them up and it sounds like a huge compliment. Thanks again. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve just checked out Vladimir Nabokov and he sounds like a very interesting (and very intelligent) character… I read that he spent his last days just down the road from here in Montreux. His ashes are buried in Clarens, (which is a suburb of, or area between, Montreux and Vevey, where I used to work) so, the next time I’m in that area, I’ll have to look him up. (If that’s the right expression!)

      Liked by 1 person

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