The Comrades Butterfly… BDI interviews citizen scientist Luelle Watts

Luelle Watts is an amazing woman and LepiMAPper extraordinaire. She has snapped and mapped 1632 LepiMAP records to date, all while training for South Africa’s infamous Comrades Marathon.

Luelle writes: “I grew up on a farm and my siblings were all much older than me. So I was very much a loner, finding my comfort and solace in Nature. I was a recluse and an introvert, shying away from people from a tender age. Later in life, my late husband and I lived on various small holdings, which made me bond with animals and the natural environment even more. I have a great passion for gardening, fishing and the outdoors. My love for running has taken me up and down the road to the Comrades Ultra Marathon 16 times and I hope to achieve my 20th Comrades finish soon.   

How did you become a citizen scientist? What was the catalyst that got you going?

I really enjoy insect photography, so I used my first DSLR camera to take ‘pretty’ pictures. Gradually butterflies became my most favoured subjects. I started posting them on the Bugs and Butterflies Facebook group to get help with identifications. And it was here that I met so many knowledgeable people! Steve Woodhall, butterfly expert and author of the Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa, encouraged me to start contributing to the Virtual Museum.

Anaphe panda – Banded Bagnest/Processionary moth – LepiMAP

What has been the highlight for you? 

The highlight for me has been all the knowledge I’ve gained on butterflies and moths from other enthusiasts and experts. I have also learnt a lot through rearing several butterfly and moth caterpillars. Steve Woodhall has been a great mentor, he has always been encouraging and helpful. Successfully rearing processionary moths Anaphe panda was very exciting for me, especially since they took six months to emerge! Rearing a White-ringed Atlas Moth Epiphora mythimnia was amazing too.

Epiphora mythimnia – White-ringed Atlas Moth – LepiMAP

How do you react to the statement that “Being a citizen scientist is good for my health, both physical and mental!”?

Oh I agree wholeheartedly that being a citizen scientist is definitely good for both my physical and mental health. Chasing after butterflies can be both exasperating and rewarding, especially when you manage to get that perfect photo after walking for miles! Citizen science is also mentally stimulating. I am always keen to learn something new everyday. I think it is important that one never stops learning.

Luelle on a recent trip to the amazing Pyramids of Giza
Megan Loftie-Eaton
Megan Loftie-Eaton
Megan is our communications, social media and citizen science coordinator. Prior to her work for the BDI, she coordinated OdonataMAP, the Atlas of African Odonata. A citizen science project run by the Animal Demography Unit, University of Cape Town and funded by the JRS Biodiversity Foundation. She also coordinated LepiMAP, which is the Atlas on African Lepidoptera. Megan is passionate about biodiversity conservation. She is a firm believer in the power of citizen science and getting the public involved in nature conservation.