Tom's Tools

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Tom, Fermilab's resident butterfly watcher, uses several different tools to help him find, catch and learn more about these beautiful insects . . . have you ever used any of these things?

The best time to look for butterflies is on a summer afternoon, when the sun is overhead. Tom wears a hat to keep his eyes shaded and his head protected. Tom also carries bug spray (to keep mosquitoes away--not butterflies!)
These are a new tool for Tom, who, in the past, sometimes had to get very close to a butterfly to identify it--and hope it wouldn't fly away!. These binoculars aren't the usual kind--they are made especially for bird and butterfly watchers because they can focus well on things that are just a few feet away, instead of yards away. Tom can also use these binoculars to see other animals, such as dragonflies and deer.
Tom doesn't use his net much anymore, but he did when he still collected specimens. (His first net, by the way, was a pillowcase attached to a broom handle!) Now, Tom has a nice breezy net. When Tom wants to study a butterfly more closely, or show one to someone else, he sometimes needs to catch it. To do this, Tom uses light swings and tries to scoop the butterfly up--making sure not harm the butterfly!
Tom usually keeps the butterflies he catches in a jar he carries with him. The jar has holes in the lid so that the butterflies can breathe. Tom might just observe the colors and patterns on the butterfly's wings. He might need to use his field guide to identify the butterfly, especially if it is rare at Fermilab. Or, he might just want to enjoy seeing how pretty it is. And he always lets it go after a few minutes.
Clipboard and Notebook
Tom sometimes keeps track of butterfly information in his notebook. He marks how many and what kind of butterflies he sees in a certain place. Butterfly watchers often cooperate with people (like scientists and environmentalists) who are trying to find patterns in butterfly populations and behavior. By recording information at Fermilab for the last four years, Tom has contributed to the general understanding of butterflies. You can help, too! Contact Tom at for more information on how to get involved.