Excellent response, Anthony.
To Foxfire, I started a thread topic on this (which you may have read), but there was a lot of info in there ... and I know it is really hard to "remember everything" sometimes.
Regarding how to capture butterfly shots on a tripod, that was actually covered where the key is to catch them in the early-morning hours before they warm-up. Not only are most insects & such "slower" during early morning hours, but you also have the best light.
I am going to give you a passage from the book, "The Magic of Digital Nature Photography," by Rob Sheppard. He states the advantages as well as can be stated:
"The Tripod is an extremely important accessory for the (nature) photographer. It is true that a tripod is an extra thing that must be carried along, and it is not particularly easy to carry. Many photographers decide not to take it, but that can be a real problem in nature photography for several reasons.
"Much of nature photography is shot in low light conditions. With a tripod, you can shoot in these conditions and have a free choice of f/stops because you can use slow shutter speeds.
"Ultimate sharpness is achieved with a tripod. I have seen photos from photographers using the most expensive lenses that don't come close to matching images from a budget lens because the photographers with the expensive lenses didn't use a tripod. A tripod will make images taken with a budget lens look great and those taken with a great lens look like it was worth the price.
"Camera movement destroys image brilliance. Sometimes photographers not using a tripod will say their photos are sharp, in small prints they do look sharp. However (when blown up), tiny movements of the camera during exposure can dull minute highlights in a photograph that affect the detail or crispness of an image.
"Composition is better assessed with a camera on a tripod. You can easily judge your compositional choices and better see what is in the frame.
"Of course, you don't need a tripod all the time, nor is it possible to always use one. If you can use fast shutter speeds or image stabilization, you can shoot without a tripod. However, in nature photography (and for taking advantage of the best natural light), a tripod is a necessity in many scenarios.
"Getting the right tripod can make a big difference in how often you use it. If the tripod is hard to use, too heavy, or hard to carry, you won't use it."
With all of what I said in my other post, and what I posted here, I personally think you should hand-hold and NOT use a tripod ... until you start to get a real sense for your camera. While you are still experimenting with shutter speeds, f/stops, and ISO settings, it is probably easier (and more fun) just to hand-hold. However, after going through a couple thousand images or so, and after you gain pretty good control of your camera, then start using a tripod ... and compare your results FULL SIZE to the results you were getting hand-held.
Compare the color of the light between an image shot at a 250 shutter speed in bright daylight ... to the color of light in an image taken at 1/20 shutter speed in the smooth cool light of the early morning, thanks to your ability to do so on a tripod. Look at the difference in bokeh too.
After you really experience the differences in these kinds of comparisons, it will be hard to look at your past efforts with this new perspective, and you will probably be getting up earlier in the morning to shoot with a tripod from then on