I had some of my wife's friends over visiting during the Christmas period. They were surprised I had an insect collection, I got asked the aged old question " Why do I have a collection of butterflies ". Before I reveal my answer, all here, must have been asked the same question, perhaps many times. Anybody feel they would like to share their answer to that question, no matter which insect order you collect.
Interesting. I normally tell those who ask, that it is the perfect hobby. There is no limitation (as with anything man-made), you do not need to spend money if you do not want to (and in my case, as soon as I was able to buy expensive insects, i stopped buying), yet are able to find something interesting and even rare pretty much whereever you are. You are learning a lot about nature, and come to appreciate wilderness, more than you would as a layman (e.g. I can tell that the beautiful forests of Kodaikanal or Oothy in India, are quite unnatural, even though Eucalypthus and Pine do look like they have bene growing there forever). You meet a lot of interesting people and make many friends and learn more about taxonomy. Last but not least, when I look at a lot of my friends who are without hobbies and are quite bored, I never have that problem. As a last plus, I learned a lot of useful skills, e.g. photographing, writing articles and even work on a book about beetle rearing. To me, this is the best hpbby in the world, and while I was often ridiculed as a nerd when I was a kid, I nowadays feel that people seem to envy the passion if anything. And last but not least, the incredible pleasure of catching something yourself, and having it in the net for the first time is absolutely unbeatable.
I was speaking to a friend of mine on sunday who was telling me how bored he was over christmas as he had nothing to do, I replied that he needed a hobby. I am lucky that I have the same interests in my 50's that I did as a child and I find pleasure in things that most people would pass off as either boring or silly, such things as cricket, astronomy and entomology. My reasons for collecting insects have changed over the years, firstly it was in their beauty (and still is), then I started rarity chasing (still do) but most of all it is because I ENJOY IT, and for me that is reason enough alone without going into the scientific side of things. It can hold an interest for any age, you don't have to be rich, in fact you don't have to spend any money at all if you don't want to, you don't have to be academic, some of the best collectors I know don't have degree's or a university education, but they are fantastic habitatsmen. In over 40 years I have never got bored with it, there is a million and one new things to discover, you meet great, like minded friends and don't forget, if it is done properly a good collection of insects has monetary value and most important of all, it is a natural history record of the fauna of a given area at a given time. When everywhere is under concrete the only record of what once occurred in that area will be your specimens and field notes, it is, in my opinion, the king of all hobbies.
For me it has always been either the beauty of the insect which first attracted my attention (Lepidoptera) or the strangeness of the insect which captivated me (most of the other major orders). Following that it has always been the "thrill of the hunt". Whether I'm dashing from one end of a field to the other end, sugaring, light collecting, or perusing an old collection for possible acquisitions --- it's about the hunt. Never ending and always in the back of my mind. Thirdly, it has always been the "Peace of mind" that this hobby has always given me. When I am involved with my hobby --- everything else fades away. For that hour or three hours that I may give it at any one time I remain focused and I devote all my energy to it. No thoughts of bills, worldly issues, or people problems ! And lastly, I would have to say the generally warm commaraderi that all collectors seem to share on the rare occasions when we do meet. A very fullfilling hobby and interest all the way around....
There's a lot of beauty hidden in plain sight in the world around us. If we take a moment to stop and study some particular part of it, the wonder of nature and its incredible intricacies come into much clearer focus. It's not going to be a popular view in any field of biology, but for me, I feel this hobby, and the adventure that accompanies it, bring me closer to God.
I've probably written this before but a few years ago I asked my mother why she thought I chose entomology as a hobby, her reply was "I don't think you did, I think it chose you". Evidently, from the time I could walk, whenever I saw a butterfly in the garden I was fascinated and would sit watching them for hours, then after a while my mother made a net for me and I learnt how to form a collection. Now I'm retired and have more time I can pursue it more seriously but it still holds the same fascination. I see other people who retire and are bored stupid - they usually drop dead fairly quickly; with an interest like entomology you're never going to get bored.