Lev Bely, 19.10.2012 10:11
In 1965, when James Nebel was young, he got a large collection of butterflies and moths to keep and own.
Then it was called the Anderson Collection and reckoned as the second largest private butterfly collection in Washington. It comprised about 3000 specimens that Andrew Anderson had gathered throughout his life in Pateros, WA, a city with a today's population of 667 people. Nebel knew Anderson since the very youth.
“When I was a kid, he was a grandpa to all the kids in the neighborhood,” said Nebel, who now lives in Rosalia where he owns the Budding Rose Gallery with his wife, Diane Nebel. “And I guess I was the only one who was interested in the collection.”
Anderson was truly a passionate collector, he spent 46 years collecting and preserving local butterflies and moths, and occasionally exchanged some exotic species from around the world. He handed over the collection to Nebel when Anderson was 86.
The Nebels will display a part of the collection on Saturday, October 20th, at the Rosalia’s fall festival. “I’d say there will be a minimum of 800 butterflies and moths at the gallery,” said James Nebel.
Nebel not only managed to keep the collection, but also enlarged it while his living with family near Belt, Montana, where he continued to gather and preserve butterflies and moths. “I liked it,” he said, adding that, “the classification system and the naming of them all were kind of hard for me to grasp.”
Nevertheless, Nebel, as many fascinated collectors, didn't give up and added 500 more specimens to the collection during his years in Montana. “You are always looking for that rare species,” he said.
When in the spring of 1984 the Nebels' house in Montana suffered flood for the third time, James got to think about how he could protect the collection from damage and keep it safe.
“We felt like it needed to be stored under better circumstances,” said Nebel, who contacted Washington State University after that incident. In 1985 WSU professor of entomology Richard S. Zack arrived in Belt to pick up 45 cases with butterflies and moths, which today are kept in the university’s James Collection (named after entomologist M. T. James) in Pullman, WA.
“The Nebel donation was a significant addition, especially because of its historical value,” wrote Zack, who’s still at WSU.
Zack also noted that WSU’s James Collection houses approximately 35000 butterflies and 60000 moths for today.
Nebel estimates his private collection to have approximately 1400 specimens. “Getting ready for the show at the gallery we found one in an envelope that was from Germany and marked 1916,” James Nebel said. “I think that’s the oldest one we found.”
James carefully stores 30 cases with butterflies and moths in an unused home sauna. “The cedar siding in the sauna protects the specimens from being eaten by other insects,” Nebel said, adding that the larvae of the common flour weevil have quite the appetite for preserved butterflies. “You have got to be very careful how you store them.”
Now the Nebels who are both over 70 years old and retired from environmental health careers at the Spokane Regional Health District, ponder on what the collection will be in the future.
“I don’t think any of our children are interested in it,” Diane Nebel said.
Recently they got a request from the family of whom they call “Grandpa A”, or Anderson, and now they're preparing smaller cases with butterflies to give them to Anderson's great-grandchildren.
Albeit the Nebels don't catch butterflies themselves anymore, they have some definite palates. “I’ve always liked the big swallowtails,” James Nebel said, “they are colorful and big and beautiful.”
Diane likes moths. “Especially the big Atlas moth (Attacus atlas), they are just so fascinating,” she said.
The Nebels hope that many kids will come to the gallery to see butterflies. They even made a special invitation for Rosalia schools.
“If kids are really interested there are some specimens here that may not be in existence anymore,” Nebel said. “And if they have questions, then I still know a little bit about it all.”
The Budding Rose Gallery is open on Saturday, October 20th, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., 510 S. Whitman Ave, Rosalia, Washington. Information: (509) 523-4278.
The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com
Photo: James Nebel with his collection, http://www.spokesman.com
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