Butterfly-collecting has died out completely. It was once a passion in my life and, for a teenager, I had a very good collection. Recently I fund a letter home in which I said I'd just caught an old lady. I remember my mother's bewilderment because she didn't realise that old ladies are moths, which is not usual for every mother to know.
There was a butterfly-collecting fraternity at school. The others called us the Buggers, but we would have preferred if they had called us entomologists. We made night excursions and sugared the trees to catch moths. You mix treacle and rum, and smear it on the bark, and the moths smell it from a long way away, and come and eat it. Once they've had a bit of rum, they become dopey, and you don't have to run very fast to catch them. Drunken moths. Rum is the secret of all the glories.
I know that butterfly-collecting is often held up as a symbol of something sinister: if you go stalking after butterflies, you must be a stalker; but I don't think we thought of it like that. It was more for the love of nature; an excuse to be walking around the woods and making a collection of the beautiful things you see when you go on walks. A butterfly collection is a reminder of those hours spent strolling through nature.
When I took my English butterflies to France to add to my French collection, some horrible little mites got in, and my butterflies became a big banquet for them. It looked so miserable to leave a lot of bodiless wings in a box, so I'm afraid it put an end to my more recent bout of collecting.Reuse content