A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE FOUNDING OF THE BUTTERFLY
& OTHER INVERTEBRATES CLUB INC.
The seed for the birth of the club was a New Scientist article highlighting how much more difficult it was to Save the Snail than to Save the Whale. The article referred to invertebrate conservation and focused on a species of snail that was reduced to a critical number of eight individuals and this article formed the basis of Helen Schwencke’s emerging interest in insects and their native host plants. Thus, Helen with Frank Jordan, commenced raising butterflies and photographing their life histories and by 1992 they had enough material to write and publish a small book entitled, Butterfly Magic: Bring Back the Birdwing & Other Butterflies to our Backyards (an Earthling Enterprises publication). The success of this book led to the commencement of an invertebrate club.
Within two years contact details of over 60 like-minded people had been collected. Subsequently a meeting, chaired by Helen Schwencke, of around 30 people at the West End State School in October 1994 led to the formation of the Club and the name Butterfly and Other Invertebrates Club was adopted. A name that encompassed a broader interest than just butterflies. Founding office bearers were Helen Schwencke as President, Rob MacSloy as Treasurer and Georgina John as the Secretary. The Club initially met at West End State School but later held meetings at the Runcorn State School. The Club logo was designed by Lois Hughes in February 1995. Lois became the major contributing artist for the club with her exquisite illustrations, while Janet White contributed butterfly line drawings in the early newsletters.
At the first AGM (26 October 1995) the club had 30 financial members and from that point held quarterly meetings. At that meeting Daphne Bowden and Georgina John accepted a joint Newsletter Secretary position to produce a quarterly newsletter which later became Metamorphosis Australia. The aim of the newsletter was to provide a summary of talks, items of interest, excursion reports together with forthcoming activities. It was first published in February 1996. By the end of the first year Daphne Bowden took on the role of Club Secretary and Newsletter Editor.
The second AGM held on 26th November 1996 incorporated the club as an association with the existing office bearers and the addition of John Moss as Vice President. An initiative from this meeting was Rob MacSloy encouraging members to collect butterfly host plant records in order to create a database. In subsequent years, members contributed to this database which was the genesis of the club’s very well received publication Butterfly Host Plants of South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales.
In the interest of history those first 13 months of activities, pre-dating the publication of the first Club Newsletter, were:
- December 1994 – Joint activity with newly formed Sunshine Coast Butterfly Group at Mapleton
- February 1995 – Professor Roger Kitching spoke on insect biodiversity
- March 1995 – John Moss led excursion in the Redlands
- April 1995 – Dr Don Sands and Sue Scott presented on the Richmond Birdwing butterfly
- May 1995 – John Hall from the then Butterfly House at Southbank, spoke on butterflies and moths
- May 1995 – Information stall at Pet and Hobby Expo
- June 1995 – Dr Geoff Monteith gave a presentation on an inordinate fondness for beetles
- July 1995 – Murdoch DeBaar spoke on butterflies and mistletoes
- August 1996 – Members gave short presentations
- September 1995 – An excursion was undertaken to Venman Bushland Reserve, Redlands Arboretum (now IndigiScapes), and to the butterfly enclosure of Lorna Johnson and her son David Johnston
- October 1995 AGM – Ric Nattrass presented dragonflies and damselflies
- November 1995 – Light trapping at Bulimba Creek by John Moss.
In summary, the Butterfly and other Invertebrates Club Inc. was conceived as a community education project and at the time unknowingly creating a citizen science project. Incidentally, the term citizen science was coined just prior to that in the late 1980s by Rick Bonney of Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. The vision for the club was to bring together people interested in butterflies and other invertebrates and to develop a network of professional and non-professional biologists to collate observations and provide a means of disseminating this information.
Finally, community organisations such as the Field Naturalist’s Club did touch on invertebrates during its excursions, and the Society for Growing Australian Plants (SGAP) focussed on propagating and growing native plants with several being butterfly host plants. Additionally, with many of the entomological societies focussed largely on professional entomologists, and most of the work reporting on species with economic impacts or taxonomic revisions, the Butterfly and Other Invertebrates Club Inc. aimed at engaging non-professional people in studying and rearing invertebrates and growing native plants in their own backyards.