Obviously, telling people that I kill butterflies is like saying, "I destroy beauty and snuff innocence." Even though spiders and beetles and wasps are swatted at without the least twinge of conscience, a butterfly is different. More free, more whimsical and seemingly symbolic of all things innocent. People like butterflies. So what can I say? I kill butterflies.
I use a killing jar: priming it well by sealing in three cottonballs soaked in ethyl acetate (a chemical in nail polish remover) until the fumes have created a sort of warm, damp presence. I then cover the cottonballs with a cardboard platform and add the insect. After a few flaps and shudders, it just falls asleep: curling its legs beneath it and calmly laying its wings open.
There is never anything sweet about death--even the death of an entirely unrelatable, strange being like a bug--but I still don't feel like a "killer." I don't feel cruel. I don't feel that there is anything about this that I should be ashamed of. Mounting insects isn't exactly a common practice, but it is a practice. And a good one. Insects are beautiful and fascinating: they're worth preserving for closer study and appreciation.
And I appreciate them greatly. Aren't they marvelous?