Butterfly expert to speak at plant society meeting July 17

Published 8:00 am Friday, June 29, 2018

The Upstate Native Plant Society July meeting will feature Dr. David Ahrenholz, a renowned butterfly expert.

Ahrenholz will offer a close-up look at butterflies of the Carolinas at 7 p.m. on July 17 at the Landrum Depot, 211 N. Trade Ave., Landrum.

Dr. David Ahrenholtz, naturalist and photographer

Ahrenholz’s love for butterflies began in the third grade when he helped his older sister collect insects for a science project.  David grew up chasing and studying butterflies in the fields near his hometown of Waterloo, Iowa.

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He wanted to share the beauty of butterflies with others, but had no talent for drawing or painting them.  He turned to photography, but discovered that his first camera, a Kodak Brownie, could not focus on small objects.

By working summers digging for his grandfather’s excavating company, he saved enough by 10th grade to buy a Pentax camera.  He was soon selling his photographs, and planning on a career as an entomologist.   

Ahrenholz later combined a career as a trauma and burn surgeon with his love for butterflies.  On long vacation trips, he traveled to South America, Florida and the Rio Grande Valley to find, study and photograph butterflies.

In 1986, he met with taxonomists from the Smithsonian Institute who asked him to collect butterfly specimens for them. The Smithsonian loaned him specimen storage cases, which now hold nearly 14,000 specimens that will eventually be part of the Smithsonian collection.

He considers himself a self-taught naturalist. He discovered a new genus of hairstreak, Ahrenholzia pimpillala, named for the discoverer and a region in Ecuador. The Audubon Field Guide to North American Butterflies includes 68 of Ahrenholz’s photographs.

Ahrenholz will share his images of butterflies of the Carolinas and his adventures as a photographer and collector at the July 17 meeting. The event is free and open to the public.

People may visit scnps.org for more information.

– Submitted by

Judy Seeley