Excerpted from the
500 Butterflies portrays 500 species of butterflies in 14 families. Although they are drawn from all over the world, there Is a very strong bias toward the tropics, where the overwhelming majority of butterflies are found. The 4,000 or so butterfly species found in Africa and Madagascar are well represented here, as are the 8,000-odd species from the American tropics. The selection from tropical Asia is smaller, partly because this area is less rich in butterflies (about 2,900 species) but also because the butterflies there tend to be much harder to see and photograph than those of Africa and tropical America. For example, when the author was in Ghana's Bobiri Forest Reserve, a visiting tour group arrived to look at the butterflies. The leader had recently taken a group to Sri Lanka, and in two weeks they had managed to see about 100 species. Within a few hours at Bobirl, their total was more than 150.
The purpose of this book is to represent butterflies you are likely to observe, which explains the species chosen. The coverage for Africa and Central and South America is fairly representative and should enable you to identity a large proportion of what you see, with the exception of the many small members of the Lycaenidae that are often on show. Also excluded are certain large species such as Prepona (Nymphalidae), in which the brightly colored blue upper side Is normally glimpsed only briefly as the butterfly takes wing. The underside is very drab and is, alas, what you normally see if the butterfly is feeding on fallen fruit or at banana bait.
Entries in this book are arranged alphabetically by family, and within family in alphabetical sequence of the genera and species. Each entry is accompanied by a photograph. These have all been taken of butterflies in their natural habitat, showing how they look and behave in the wild. Even the use of artificial bait to attract specimens for photography has been avoided. Each entry is headed by the common name, although in many cases names have been given only recently and are far from being in general use.
Each illustration is accompanied by an overall description of the species, the type of habitat in which it lives, and other information, including a reference to the individual butterfly illustrated. There is also a data panel. This starts with the scientific name, which is generally the latest accepted name that the author has been able to track down, bearing in mind the frequent changes that are a constant source of irritation to us all. Next comes alternative common name(s) if applicable, followed by the family to which the species belongs.
The wingspan quoted is generally midway between the maximum and minimum given in other references and is intended as a very approximate guide only. Under "larval food plants" the food eaten by the caterpillar (where known) is listed. The flight period for many tropical species is given as "all year," but it should be stressed that this does not necessarily mean you will see this species on any given visit to its habitat. This is because, even in the warm tropics, butterfly numbers may drop to very low levels at certain times of the year (for example, in the dry season or at the height of the rainy season), although the species will still be on the wing somewhere. For temperate areas the months of usual emergence are given, although these times will vary according to latitude, elevation, and individual seasons. Finally, "range" lists the countries or general area in which the species has been recorded to date.
The butterfly families used in the following pages follow the "traditional" concept of retaining a larger number of smaller families. In most recent works no fewer than nine of the families used here (Acraeidae, Amathusiidae, Brassolidae, Danaidae, Heliconiidae, Ithomiidae, Libytheidae, Morphidae, and Satyridae) have been lumped into a hugely expanded and unwieldy concept of the Nymphalidae. Since this classification has not been universally accepted and because the application of smaller families makes for a much more accessible book, they have been retained here. The number of species included usually reflects the size of the family, so that in small families such as Morphidae, Brassolidae, Amathusiidae, and Libytheidae only one or two species are illustrated.