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The Last of the Insects

Nichole Dupont

Courtesy photo

Rene Wendell has collected thousands of insects during his forays into the Berkshire woods and meadows.

SHEFFIELD, Mass. — Rene Wendell has been around the woods more than a few times. The 94-year-old Pittsfield native and former tracker and taxidermist is an avid collector of all things wild including flies and beetles and, of course, several decades of memories. 

"I grew up around Burbank Park," he said in a phone interview. "As a kid, the woods were my playground and I was obsessive about animals. That was 70 or 80 years ago, can you imagine? It's been very interesting, I've seen a lot of changes here over the years."

These changes aren't all good. Wendell said that in his many outdoor adventures he has noticed a significant drop in the amount of birds and butterflies that used to fly in abundance in the Berkshires.

"I know it's because of the environment," he said. "A lot of the birds and butterflies are gone. Some of them left because of the environment. This place has changed from open fields to forest, the whole landscape is different."

Fortunately, Wendell has collected thousands of butterflies and insects over the years and he wants to share his collection with others. On Thursday, Feb. 17, at 6 p.m. at Bartholomew's Cobble, Wendell will present his impressive, well-preserved collection of flies, wasps, beetles, butterflies and moths — all of which he has found on his many forays into the Berkshire meadows and forests.

Strangely enough, Wendell said his favorite specimens have always been the long-horned beetle, an insect many gardeners brush off as destructive pests. It's not the habits of the beetle that concern him.

"I've always loved the way they're shaped and the different colors they have," he said. "That and moths. Moths are beautiful. The ratio of moths to butterflies in the area is 14 to one."

For the most part, Wendell is done adding to his collection. However, there is one insect that has eluded him for years and he hopes that this year he will finally find it.

"There's one more butterfly that I want for my collection," he said. "It's a giant swallowtail butterfly. I've seen them in Sheffield and I keep going back to find them but so far no luck."

For more information about Wendell's presentation call 413-229-8600. Registration is strongly suggested.

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