Butterflys are freeJan 1, 2003
BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE . . . to voyage, that is. And you can make a few bucks helping to keep track of them.
It seems that there is some evidence that butterflies, moths, and other insects make migratory crossings of the Caribbean and other ocean areas. Dr. Robert Srygley of the University of Texas and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama is offering $1.00 to any voyager who sights an insect while at sea and who then fills out a sighting form and sends it in to him at STRI (phone: 507-27-6022) or his office in the Department of Zoology at the University of Texas; Austin, Texas 78712.
Evidently butterflies are highly sensitive to ecological change and thus are good indicators of environmental quality. By knowing more about their migration patterns, researchers may get a better understanding of how tropical rainforest areas are faring.
The sighting form lists a number of important parameters such as location of the vessel, weather at the time, direction of travel (the insect, not the boat), color, type of markings, etc. According to Dr. Srygley, the best way to identify one of these bugs is to capture it, place the insect in folded wax paper, and put it in the freezer. Presumably the cadaverous packet would be mailed to Texas during the next port call. (The instructions don't say whether one should put the little fella out of his misery first, or just let the deep freeze do the trick.)
One only hopes that long-distance voyagersa notoriously dollar-hungry bunchdon't end up forcing ocean voyaging butterflies into the same category as passenger pigeons.