What to keep in mind when looking for a good butterfly net?

Hi there, fellow nature-loving elves and gnomes of iNat.

I’m thinking of getting a reliable butterfly net, but I was wondering: what makes a butterfly net a good one? (Does it depend on the situation?) And if you have a good butterfly net yourself, what do you think makes it as useful as it is?
Also, are most nets transparent enough to take photos of insects inside or do you have tips for taking photos of caught insects without killing or cooling them?


Sturdy handle. The New Mexico bee expert uses golf club shafts for her nets.


Petri dish. I can’t remember who taught me how to use these, but seriously, they’re the best for containing insects for just a moment while you photograph them.
The Power of the Petri Dish! · iNaturalist


Craft beading containers work well too! They’re a bit small, roughly the size of a thumb, but clear enough: see this beetle. They look like:


I find that observations of insects photographed in plastic vials – even ones designed for use in the field – are often not very clear and key features are not visible, which would seem to defeat the purpose of capturing an insect so that it can be examined more closely than if it were flying around.

I suspect they work better in the field and the reduced visibility of the photos is a result of the camera not focusing through the plastic properly, but it is something to consider when using this method to post observations of difficult taxa. E.g., there may be some materials that work better than others in this context.

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Probably not something you want to carry in the field, but these glass boxes work great at a mothing station. I cut the chain off so the lid can be opened flat. Glass doesn’t scratch as badly as plastic and the flat sides work better than round for me. https://www.amazon.com/HighFree-Decorative-Organizer-Rectangle-5-75x3-5x2/dp/B084G1D6HQ/ref=asc_df_B084G1D6HQ/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=416883880521&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=4136105460845504888&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=m&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9015851&hvtargid=pla-897384547422&psc=1&tag=&ref=&adgrpid=102402148068&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvadid=416883880521&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=4136105460845504888&hvqmt=&hvdev=m&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9015851&hvtargid=pla-897384547422

  1. Sturdy and well made. The sturdiest are those that don’t collapse and are simple. This doesn’t mean they are the best, because they lack capabilities.

  2. Bag- large opening (18" plus) and deep, get as deep as you can so it can be flipped over the edge of the net hoop and trap the butterfly.

Extendable nets are a bonus because they can be conveniently carried collapsed, yet extended for height. That said, this is often a critical failure area and weak point. Thus, this is where money comes into play- the cheap ones you find on Amazon aren’t going to last. The best are made in Europe and cost hundreds of US$.

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Then it’s a good thing that I live in Europe, but it’s probably still going to be expensive.
Thanks for all of the information. That’ll be helpful when looking for a net.

You also need to think about target species and how you’ll be using the net. Sturdy is always good in general but also consider the type of net. A sweep net will have a very sturdy handle and a cloth reinforced net near the hoop. These are used to sweep through vegetation and see what you get but are often too slow to swing at a fast flying target. Other nets have a lighter handle and the net is all mesh. These are used to target a specific insect that may be moving very quickly. You’ll want a bigger net opening for really evasive insects or you’ll miss. Length of the mesh is another thing. Long meshes let you spin the net after a capture to keep the insect in the net. That long mesh will also get caught on every bush and thorn. I like a shorter mesh for insects on open ground where I can slam the net down on the ground and then grab the insect through the mesh.

Best of luck. Nets can be handy.


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