A Growing International Market
At one time, butterflies were collected exclusively as dead, "pinned" specimens. Victorian explorers trekked up mist-shrouded tropical mountainsides, returning with insects the size of dinner plates and the color of sapphires and emeralds. As with stamp collecting, the object was to obtain examples of as many species as possible, and passionate collectors would pay dearly for especially rare or eye-popping specimens.
Collectors still make up a significant portion of the market, as do scientists, museums, and artisans. But during the early 1980s butterfly flight houses--where people could walk among fluttering, swooping Lepidoptera--became increasingly popular. Europe has almost eighty public butterfly houses, and the number in the United States is growing quickly. In fact, you can walk among live New World butterflies in this museum right now--visit the temporary Butterfly Exhibit on the second floor off the Roosevelt Rotunda.