By Emma Sun
STEP into Cleve Herd’s Pakenham Upper home and the first thing you notice is the display cabinets filled with an amazing array of butterflies.
Most of them are from various parts of Australia, but there is also a collection of butterflies Cleve managed to acquire from overseas.
“I’ve got around 20,000 butterflies in my collection,” Cleve said.
“I got them from all over the world, like Africa, Asia and South America.”
Cleve’s interest in butterflies goes back over 35 years, owing to his own curiosity and influence from his late uncle John McKean, who was a famous ornithologist.
“I’ve always had an interest in nature and birds and insects,” he said.
“I used to go bird watching with my uncle as a kid. He then moved up to the Northern Territory and used to send me boxes of insects, with butterflies, grasshoppers and beetles.
“My interest stemmed from there and branched out to collecting butterflies. The last 10 to 15 years I’ve really got into collecting butterflies and studying them more closely.”
Contrary to what everyone may think, Cleve said a lot of his butterflies weren’t caught with a net.
“You can purchase [butterflies],” he said.
“There are companies that sell them.
“A lot of mine I traded from collectors overseas. I’d send them Australian specimens and they would send me theirs.”
Cleve also breeds his own butterflies, by purchasing eggs, larvae or pupa.
“As soon as butterflies start flying, they lose their scales and their colour,” he explained.
“Everything wants to get butterflies when they fly around. Dogs, cats, even children.
“The main thing is, breeding is the best way and you get the best specimens.”
Cleve said his favourite butterfly is the Teinopalpus Imperialis, which originates from China.
“It’s green and gold, with a very unusual wing shape and a wingspan of at least 100mm,” he said.
“It was really hard to get. It was given to me by a Japanese collector many years ago. It’s probably the most valuable one I have.”
Travelling around Australia just to get a few butterflies is nothing out of the ordinary to Cleve, who recently embarked on a trip to the tip of Queensland just to catch three butterflies, which he netted himself.
“Collecting Australian specimens is my main interest and I’ve been all over Australia,” he said.
“I have a permit to collect in Queensland, where there are a lot more varieties.
“It is very exciting to get one that’s often hard to get or very sought after, especially if it’s one you’ve never had.”
However, Cleve revealed his hobby doesn’t have to be the main reason for his decision to go on a trip.
“I enjoy getting out in the bush in the rainforest and just seeing the country and exploring Australia,” Cleve said.
“Collecting the butterflies is just a bonus.”
By Emma Sun