Object of the Month: January 2022

Scarce large blue butterfly (Phengaris teleius, Czech: modrásek očkovaný, Oculated Blue Butterfly), Carte Maximum with stamps from the Nature Protection (Endangered Butterflies- World Wildlife Fund) series, Czech Post, 2002. Stamps, block sheets and cards designed by Libuše a Jaromír Knotkovi, engraved by Martin Srb. NML Medical Museum, 144/2021

This butterfly is (in) oculated.

Are You? 

Object of the Month: January 2022


The January Object of the Month is based on wordplay: the English version must therefore be an explanation, rather a translation. The COVID 19 vaccination rates in the Czech Republic remain stubbornly Central European: higher than in Romania, Bulgaria or Poland and much higher than in Russia or Ukraine, but lagging behind “old” EU members or Britain. Why have we chosen an ant-eating butterfly to call on Czechs to get their first or their booster shot?

In Czech, the word for “vaccinated” – in-ocul-ated – is the same as the species name of the scarce large blue butterfly, meaning “spotted,” “with eye-like spots.” The species is indigenous to central Europe and Asia as far east as Japan. Its larvae feed first on the seeds of the great burnet and later fall into grass, entice ants into transporting them inside the anthills and feed on their brood. Destruction of natural meadows with burnet plants and ant colonies has hurt many butterfly populations. The carte maximum postcard of the scarce large blue, with stamp affixed on the averse and stamped with a butterfly motif, was designed by Jaromír and Libuše Knotek and issued as part of the Nature Protection (Endangered Butterflies- World Wildlife Fund) series in 2002.

The Object of the Month outlines the linguistic history of “inoculation” – we kept the word “vaccination”, used synonymously in Czech, for another occasion – and, at the same time, challenges the vaccine shy at least a little.

Rudolf Schwarz, Naše příroda v obrazech VII: Motýli denní 2 [Our Nature in Images VII: Diurnal Butterflies 2] (Praha: Vesmír, 1949), NML Medical Museum